The black widow is about a half an inch long. It is a false belief that the female will kill the male after they mate, that's where the name black widow comes from. There are 2 common black widows in the United States.
- The southern black widow has a shiny, black, round abdomen with a red hourglass on the belly. This the one most people think of when they hear black widow.
- The northern black widow has a row of red spots down the back and a cross on the belly. These markings can be yellow or white also. This species of spider may be brown or have red legs.
Black widow spiders are active at night. They usually live in dark corners. Only the female black widow bites humans, and she bites only when disturbed, especially while protecting her eggs.
The black widows spider bite affects the victim's nervous system. Their venom is one of the most potent made by an animal. Some people are lightly affected by the venom, but others may have a very bad response. The first symptom is pain at the site of the bite. It usually takes 20 minutes to one hour after the bite for symptoms to occur. This can be very painful. More severe symptoms are nausea, vomiting, fainting, dizziness, chest pain and breathing difficulties.
Age and physical health play a big part in determining whether the bite victim will have a severe reaction or not. It affects children and the elderly worse than young people. Although, people rarely die from a black widow bite.
If symptoms are mild, you can treat them at home with cold and warm compresses and hot baths. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used as pain relievers in mild cases.
If you have a serious reaction to a black widow spider bite, your local doctors office and urgent cares will not be able to help you. You will need to go to the emergency room of the hospital. If symptoms are extreme, you will want to call 911, so you can get treatment faster. You may need to use narcotics and a drug used for counteracting the venom. If you are experiencing severe pain or whole-body symptoms, this would be considered a serious reaction.
Early treatment is essential. So when in doubt of what to do, head for the hospital. It's better safe than sorry.