How to Treat a Black Widow Spider Bite

Black Widow Spider BiteColder temperatures mean spiders are headed indoors. In many parts of the country, that includes black widows. Here’s how to treat a black widow bite.

Black Widows: Know Your Spider

Black widows typically have some sort of red marking on their abdomens, but not always. The marking is usually shaped like an hourglass. These spiders live under eaves and around undisturbed debris, woodpiles, porch furniture, barns, sheds and outhouses.

Signs and Symptoms of a Black Widow Spider Bite

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If you get a black widow spider bite, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • painful bite (but not always)
  • two tiny fang marks, possibly a little red mark, maybe some swelling (but sometimes there’s no evidence of the bite)
  • muscle aches and cramping of the abdomen, back and extremities that can be severe
  • increased sweating or salivation
  • elevated blood pressure
  • rarely, seizures or respiratory difficulties that can result in death, usually in children
  • symptoms usually peak within about 12 hours but can continue for several days

How to Treat a Black Widow Spider Bite

  • Apply cold packs to the bite area intermittently for five- to 10-minute intervals. (Place a cloth between the pack and the skin.)
  • Call the regional poison control office for advice. Its number should be on your speed dial. Find the number for your regional office at www.aapcc.org.
  • Seek medical care, if possible. There is an antivenom for those who develop severe symptoms.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water, and apply an antibacterial ointment.
  • Take whatever you have for the pain. Often, strong narcotics are needed.

2 thoughts on “How to Treat a Black Widow Spider Bite

  1. Bushwalker

    DOWN HERE in Australia we have a similar spider known as the “Redback (or Red Back)”, which is genetically closely related to the Black Widow and even looks similar (though the Aussie version is a glossy black with a brighter red “hourglass” on it’s back..), though it is now regarded as two separate and distinct species…

    First Aid for Redback bites is the same :
    * Ice packs;
    * Rest and monitor the patient;
    * Seek medical care..

    DON’T use restrictive bandages or “cut and suck” treatments on Black Widows or Redbacks.
    NEVER apply tourniquets to any snake or spider bites [broad bandages are now the standard treatment for all snakes and Funnel Web spider bites - tourniquets or cutting the bite will only make matters worse; while "suction pump" devices are a COMPLETE waste of time..].

    WITH REGARD to “washing the bite area” : ONLY do that if you have positively identified the spider or snake involved ~ medical authorities state that leaving the immediate bite area unwashed can make it easier to identify the species (most hospitals, and many veterinarians, have test kits to identify the venom..).

  2. JLA

    Been there, done that, and it SUCKED! I got bitten by a black widow while working at my boy scout camp one summer. It bit me on my right arm in the middle of the night when I rolled over on it. I only know for sure what it was because it woke me up while it was trying to get away (it was pinned between my arm & the mattress), and I killed it. I didn’t realize that I had been bitten until a little while later, but once it started holy crap it sucked! I felt like I had been used as a tackling dummy by every team in the NFL. My whole body hurt, bad. Later that same year I, along with nearly a dozen others, got indirectly hit by lightning while I was warning a local troop to take cover because a severe storm was coming. (They got the warning! About 6 of them ended up in the hospital. Bad day.) The lightning strike knocked me more than a dozen feet through the air, and I felt the after affects for days, but the bite from that damn black widow spider was worse!

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