SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A BLACK WIDOW SPIDER BITE
Although the black widow spider bite may not be felt immediately, there is soon a
dull, numbing pain at the bite site where two red puncture marks appear with only a
slight local topical reaction. The nervous system is affected, especially the abdominal
pain (cramps, 15-20 minutes later). The abdomen is rigid and hard like. The victim
experiences tightness in the chest with pain during inhalation and he has possible
convulsions, paralysis, or signs of shock. In most cases, the symptoms wane without
treatment after 2 to 3 days. The bite seldom causes death if treated properly; but it can
cause death, especially in children or the elderly. Death usually results from asphyxia
by respiratory paralysis.
TREATMENT FOR A BLACK WIDOW SPIDER BITE
Although the bite is self-limiting, the suffering justifies consideration. Remove the
victim's clothing and/or shoes to the extent necessary to expose the bite area. Remove
jewelry as soon as possible to prevent restricting the circulation as swelling (edema)
occurs. Cleanse the bite area and treat the points of puncture with iodine. Keep the
patient as quiet as possible and monitor his vital signs. Apply an ice pack to the bite
area (if possible) since the ice relieves pain and swelling and slows down circulation,
restricting the spread of the venom. Warm baths or applications may aid in lessening
the pain from muscle spasms and some of the undesirable after effects. Administer 10
ml of 10% calcium gluconate IV or IM and determine if the victim needs a tetanus
booster inoculation. Analgesics and sedatives such as opiates and barbiturates are
usually not sufficient to overcome muscular pain. There is an antiserum available and is
being used in some areas. Treat for anaphylactic shock, if necessary.
PREVENTION OF BLACK WIDOW SPIDER BITES
To prevent suffering from these bites, keep basements, garages, and the spiders
known habitats clean. Be especially careful if you are using an outside privy because
many individuals have been bitten on their genitalia while using a privy. Watch for the
female spider with her web and egg sacs. When guarding the egg sac, she is
particularly prone to biting.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER
The recluse spider (Figure 2-2) is approximately 3/8" long and is differentiated
from other brown spiders by a dark brown violin shaped area on its back. The spider
can be found in at least 13 southern and central states to the west coast of the U.S.
while other species are found in South America. Its most distinguishing feature is its six
eyes, because most spiders have eight eyes.