You can find black widow spiders throughout the United States. But they are most common in the southern part of the country. They prefer dark corners, such as in garages and storage sheds. When disturbed, the female black widow spider may bite. This produces a pale, circular area with a surrounding red ring.
The spiders venom is neurotoxic, which means that it affects the nervous system. This results in pain at the bite site as well as muscle cramps, weakness and abdominal pain.
In severe cases, there may be respiratory distress, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, elevated blood pressure and rapid heart rate. Children and the elderly are more likely to have severe reactions.
Anyone with severe reactions should go to an emergency room for treatment. This may include pain relief and muscle relaxants. And if necessary, antivenin treatment is sometimes given.
For mild reactions, cold or warm compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, will help.