Black Widow Spiders
Black widow spiders are easily recognizable. They’re plump,
black, and shiny, with an hourglass-shaped, red mark on their abdomens.
Sometimes, this red mark may take a slightly different shape. In other cases,
the spider may have red markings on its back too.
This type of spider gets its name from its mating behavior. After
mating, the females typically kill and then eat their male partners, leaving
them as “widows.”
These spiders aren’t aggressive and only bite when they feel
threatened. The bites usually aren’t fatal, but they can still cause some
serious and uncomfortable symptoms.
If a black widow spider has bitten you, get medical treatment
This spider type is found throughout the world. While they are
found all over the United States, they’re most common in the Southern and Western
What Are the Symptoms of Black Widow Spider
You’ll usually feel the sensation of a minor pinprick when a
black widow spider first bites you. You might not realize that you’ve been
bitten at first unless you caught the spider in the act. In some cases, the
bite might be painful right away.
The area around the bite will likely redden and begin to swell.
You’ll develop more serious symptoms within a few hours of the
bite. Sometimes, the more serious symptoms can develop in as little as 15
minutes after the bite occurs. Most commonly, you’ll experience pain that’s not
limited to the bite location. Your chest and abdomen, in particular, will be
painful. The muscles in these areas will cramp and go rigid due to severe
muscle spasms. Your back and shoulders may also hurt.
Other signs and symptoms you might experience include:
- difficulty breathing, which is due to paralysis
of the diaphragm
- a severe increase in blood pressure
- a headache, which may be partially due to a
change in blood pressure
- a fever
In rare and extreme cases, black widow spider venom poisoning may
lead to seizures and even death. Death generally doesn’t occur in healthy
adults. Young people, the elderly, and those with weakened immune symptoms are
more susceptible to serious complications and death from a black widow spider
Regardless, anyone who has been bitten, or who suspects they’ve
been bitten by a black widow spider, should seek medical treatment immediately.
What Causes a Black Widow Spider to Bite?
Black widow spiders are reclusive and not aggressive. They’ll
never seek you out to bite you. Instead, they only bite in self-defense or when
they feel threatened.
Black widow spiders live in dark, hidden spots, such as in piles of
rocks, leaves, or wood. Don’t move or disturb these piles without wearing
gloves, as you might accidentally touch a black widow spider and get bitten.
You should also wear gloves when you’re moving things out of dark
corners in garages or basements. Black widow spiders may live in these areas.
These spiders might also hide in a variety of other dark places,
- inside your shoes, especially if they’re stored
- in piles of unused blankets
- in the crevices of porch furniture
- between stones in a rock wall
How Is Black Widow Spider Venom Poisoning
Treatment for a black widow bite will vary depending on your
health, symptoms, and the severity of the bite.
You may be given medication to help ease your pain. You might
also be given medications to help lower the high blood pressure that sometimes
accompanies a black widow spider bite.
If the bite is more severe, you may need muscle relaxants or
antivenin, which is an antitoxin used to treat venomous bite). In some cases,
you may even need to be hospitalized.
You should go to a doctor or emergency room right away if a black
widow spider has bitten you.
There are some steps you can take immediately preceding your trip
to the hospital or on the way to the hospital.
- Wash the bite thoroughly with soap.
- Apply a wet or damp ice pack for 10 minutes at a
time, with 10-minute breaks in between.
- Elevate the location of the bite, if possible.
For example, if you were bitten on your hand, keep your arm over your head. You
should get to a hospital as soon as possible.