Black Widow Spider

The black widow is a spider with a shiny black body, thin legs and an hourglass shaped red/white mark on its abdomen. The female is much larger than the male and is one of the largest spiders in the United States. Males generally do not bite. Females bite only when hungry, agitated or protecting the egg sac. The black widow is not aggressive. They are usually found in dry, secluded, dimly lit areas. More than 80 percent of all bite victims are adult men.

Black widow spider bites are the leading cause of death from spider bites in the United States. The venom is 14 times more toxic than rattlesnake venom. It is a neurotoxin that causes little local reaction but does cause pain and spasms in the larger muscle groups of the body within 30 minutes to three hours. Severe bites can cause respiratory failure, coma and death.

Those at the highest risk are children under age 16, the elderly, people with chronic illness and people with high blood pressure. Signs and symptoms of a black widow spider bite:

  1. A pinprick sensation at the bite site, becoming a dull ache within 30 to 40 minutes
  2. Pain and spasms in the shoulders, back, chest, and abdominal muscles within 30 minutes to three hours
  3. Rigid, board-like abdomen
  4. Restlessness and anxiety
  5. Fever
  6. Rash
  7. Headache
  8. Vomiting and nausea
  9. Flushing
  10. Sweating
  11. Grimacing

The symptoms usually last 24 to 48 hours. Treatment:

  1. Treat for shock
  2. Apply a cold compress but do not apply ice
  3. Transport to hospital as quickly as possible


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