Treatment

For most people with spider bites, including black widow and brown recluse spider bites, the following treatment measures are all that's required:

  • Clean the bite with mild soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment if you think the bite was caused by a brown recluse spider.
  • Apply a cool compress to the bite. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
  • If the bite is on an arm or leg, elevate it.
  • Take over-the-counter medications as needed. You might try a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), or an antihistamine (Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, others).
  • Observe the bite for signs of infection.

Your doctor may also recommend a tetanus booster shot if you haven't had one in the last five years. You may need antibiotics if the bite becomes infected.

Black widow antivenom

If a black widow bite is causing severe pain or life-threatening symptoms, your doctor may recommend an antivenom, which may be injected into a thigh muscle or given through a vein (intravenously). Antivenom can cause serious allergic reactions, so it must be used with caution.