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Black widow spiders
(Latrodectus mactans and Latrodectus hesperus) are found throughout the United States,
Mexico, and southern Canada. A female black widow is much more likely to
deliver more venom than a male spider. Female black widows are long-legged,
shiny, coal-black spiders with an orange, red, or yellow shape on their
underside that usually looks like an hourglass but may be another shape. Female
black widows are usually about
1.5 in. (3.8 cm) long, but they may
Black widow spiders are frequently found in low-lying
webs in garages, in barbecue grills, around swimming pools, and in wood piles.
Most bites occur in rural and suburban areas and occur between the months of
April and October. These spiders tend to bite defensively when their webs are
disturbed. Bites to babies and children may be more serious than bites to
In most cases of a black widow spider bite, symptoms
consist only of:
In some cases, severe symptoms appear within 30 to 60
minutes. These include:
If you believe you have been bitten by a
black widow spider:
black widow spider bite is diagnosed through a physical examination and
questions about the bite. You should be prepared to describe the spider, where
and when the bite took place, and what you were doing at the time. Your doctor will ask what your main symptoms are, when they began, and how
they have developed, progressed, or changed since the bite.
Medicine to counteract black
widow spider venom (antivenom) is available in the United States, Mexico, and
Canada. It is usually used if you have trouble breathing, have high blood
pressure, or are pregnant.
Treatment also includes:
July 8, 2013
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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