Health and Medicine

First Aid and Poisons

Which first-aid measures can be used for a bite by a black widow spider?

The black widow spider (Latrodectus mactans) is common throughout the United States. Its bite is severely poisonous, but no first-aid measures are of value. Age, body size, and degree of sensitivity determine the severity of symptoms, which include an initial pinprick with a dull numbing pain, followed by swelling. An ice cube may be placed over the bite to relieve pain. Between 10 and 40 minutes after the bite, severe abdominal pain and rigidity of stomach muscles develop. Muscle spasms in the extremities, ascending paralysis, and difficulty in swallowing and breathing follow. The mortality rate is less than one percent, but anyone who has been bitten should see a doctor; the elderly, infants, and those with allergies are most at risk, and should be hospitalized.


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