Information on Black Widow Spider Bites

How to tell if you’ve been bitten by a black widowThe black widow is one of the most well-known and feared spiders. This fear is justified in that a black widow spider bite can be both painful and harmful. Thankfully, these spiders are not aggressive and usually only bite when threatened or disturbed. In addition, only the female of this species will bite.

Mistakenly, spiders are blamed for all types of rashes, itchy skin and other types of bites. In fact, spiders rarely bite humans, but when they do, it’s helpful to know which type of spider was the culprit and where they are most commonly found.

The mark of the black widowThe black widow spider is found throughout the United States, but is most common in the South. Although not always true, the black widow was named because of the fact that it will sometimes kill and consume the male spider after mating. The black widow is a small to medium-sized spider whose body is about one-half of an inch long. These spiders are shiny black and have a large, globe-like abdomen. The most noticeable characteristic is a red or orange hourglass-shaped marking on its underside.

Creeping in the darkBlack widow spiders are most active at night and prefer to harbor in dark cracks and crevices in undisturbed corners of buildings during the day. Most are found outside in sheds, garages and under decks and porches.

Black widow spider bitesThe first sign of a black widow spider bite is acute pain or stinging at the site of the bite. Black widows have two fangs used for killing their prey. If you suspect you’ve been bitten, look closely at the area for two small puncture wounds in the skin. The area around the bite may become red and swollen.

Bite symptomsThe black widow spider’s venom contains a protein that affects the nervous system of its victim. The degree of the symptoms encountered after a bite depends on the amount of toxin that was injected and a person’s sensitivity to the venom. The following symptoms may occur within as little as 20 minutes:

  • Muscle cramps, stomach pain, tremors and weakness.

  • More severe symptoms include – nausea, dizziness, chest pain and respiratory distress.

  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure that can lead to more serious complications.

Responding to bitesBlack widow spider bites should not be taken lightly. Although there has not been a reported case of death from a black widow spider bite in more than 10 years, it is recommended that a person seek medical attention as quickly as possible. If practical, place the spider in a jar or plastic bag and bring it with you for proper identification. You should always seek the advice of your doctor. The Centers for Disease Control recommends some of the following steps:

  • Wash the area with soap and water.

  • Apply an ice pack or cold compress.

  • Antibiotic cream or lotion can be applied to the site to prevent infection.

  • Elevate if the bite is on a hand, arm, foot or leg.

  • If the victim is experiencing severe symptoms, call 911 for immediate assistance.

It might be somewhat comforting to know that spider bites to people are not common, but who wants to take the chance? If you’ve noticed more than just the occasional spider around your house, call a pest management professional for advice. They have the knowledge to help prevent an unpleasant encounter with black widows and other spiders.

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