What Happens When a Black Widow Spider Bites You?


Black widow spiders possess a venom that is highly toxic. Although insects are most at risk of receiving a bite, humans also can be victims. The black widow is considered the most poisonous spider in North America, but luckily, its bite rarely causes death in humans. Prevention is the best safeguard against a black widow bite. The next best step is to act quickly if you suspect you may have been bitten.

Black Widow Description

The female black widow spider is about one-and-a-half inches long and black in color with a red hour-glass shaped marking on its abdomen. The male is much smaller than the female and is not poisonous. The female weaves a cobweb-like home and prefers to live in dark, undisturbed spaces such as basements, storage building and under rocks and woodpiles.


Black widow spiders usually only bite in self defense when disturbed. The spider bites by injecting venom from its two fangs. Victims usually will notice two small red dots where the fangs entered the skin. Some people feel sharp, stabbing pain at the time of the bite, but some bites go undetected at first. Eventually the toxins move through the body, causing abdominal pain and cramping. Other symptoms include nausea, fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure and possibly even respiratory problems.


If you suspect that you have been bitten by a black widow, call your doctor or go to a local emergency room immediately. Icing the bite usually helps with pain and swelling. If possible, kill the spider and place it in a jar or similar container so that the doctor can positively identify it as a black widow. Your doctor may give you medicine to counteract the venom and other drugs to help alleviate the pain. Usually you will be allowed to go back home unless you have a pre-existing medical condition, which may cause you to have to stay in the hospital for closer monitoring.


The prognosis for a black widow spider bite usually is very good. Most symptoms go away within several days. Less serious symptoms of pain and discomfort may bother the victim for two to three weeks. Fatalities are very rare. The people most at risk of dying from a black widow bite are the very young, the very old and individuals who are already in very poor health.


In order to prevent possible bites, try to rid your surroundings of black widows. Wear protective clothing such as gloves and long sleeves when checking for spiders. Look in dark, undisturbed places around your house and yard. Use a flashlight and check at night if possible, since black widow spiders are mainly nocturnal. Try to keep your yard free of piles of clutter, such as wood pieces and rocks. Vacuum indoors to remove webs and eggs. As far as insecticides, you can try common store-bought brands, or you can hire a pest removal specialist to treat your home and yard with stronger chemicals if so desired.

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