What Should You Do when Bitten By A Black Widow Spider?
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What Should You Do when Bitten By A Black Widow Spider?

Black widows are fairly common spiders in the southern United States and in the Southwest. They like to live in dark places away from humans; however, humans sometimes encroach upon their habitats. If you accidently touch a black widow spider it will most likely bite you to protect itself. It doesn't see you as a tasty meal; it sees you as a threat to its survival and will bite you to protect itself.

A black widow bite may feel like a little sting of a pin prick. If you get bit in an area where there aren’t many pain receptor nerves, you might not feel it at all until later. Black widow venom is a neurotoxin. Black widow venom is composed of proteins that paralyzes its prey and digests the tissues of the prey to turn it into a liquid meal.

If you are bitten by a black widow spider, you will first notice two tiny fang marks. The venom is injected through the fangs into your body and picked up by the capillaries in your skin. The toxin is carried throughout your body. You will notice swelling at the site of the bite, and severe pain will manifest as the toxin circulates throughout the body.

Symptoms of a black widow bite include:

Muscle pain



Shortness of breath

Profuse sweating

Weak and thready pulse

Clammy skin

Chest pain

Severe abdominal pain

Labored breathing


What to do if bitten by a black widow

If you are bitten by a black widow spider, don’t waste time waiting for a reaction to occur. Call 911 immediately. If you can capture the spider, put it in a jar with a lid on it and give it to the EMTs to take to the hospital so that the ER doctor can be sure that the spider is, indeed, a black widow.

While waiting for the EMTs to come, or for someone to take you to the hospital, begin first-aid. First-aid for a black widow bite should be to clean the area with soap and water. Put a cool compress on the area to slow down circulation. If you get stung on the hand, arm or leg, you can put a band around your leg, but don’t make it into a tourniquet to cut off circulation. You only want to slow down circulation.

Never try to suck out the poison from a black widow bite or any kind of bite. Regardless of what you have seen on the movies, sucking on a spider bite or snake bite does not suck out the poison. The poison is already in circulation. The wound will not release the toxins when negative pressure (from sucking) is applied to the wound.

Being bitten by a black widow spider isn’t usually a death sentence, but you can get very sick. Children, immunodepressed individuals, the elderly and people with blood pressure problems are most likely to be in grave danger when bitten by a black widow spider.


Mayo Clinic

Nursing knowledge: Caring for patients with black widow bites

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Comments (5)

Good informative article

Thanks Norma. I saw a documentary recently about black widows and it inspired me to research it for an article.

I use to live in southern Alberta - we had black widow spiders there too.  People have little to fear from them as they are actually very shy - just do not stick our hand into places you cannot see (such as holes in logs)

black widows are also common in my country...thanks for the tips

Ranked #3 in Immune System

Thank you for sharing this valuable information on black-widows, we have them here.