There is a new warning sign for every parent’s worst nightmare. After a Boston-area couple found a blue mark on their daughter’s leg, they assumed it was a random insect bite. What they discovered should serve as a warning to all parents, and what they learned could save a life.
Earlier this month, Kristine Donovan of Mendon, Massachusetts found a small bluish-purple bruise on the back of her daughter Kailyn’s knee. She thought it was just an insect bite, but things quickly got worse when the bruise turned much darker.
When Kristine discovered the bruise-like bite she figured it had occurred in the family’s backyard.
The parents hesitantly let her go to school the next day.
But when Kristine received a call that Kailyn had a fever, Mom and Dad didn’t hesitate.
They quickly took the little girl to her pediatrician. The doctor took one look at the bite and said she needed to go to the hospital immediately.
Within a day or two, the bite had gotten worse, turning black.
Infectious disease specialists at UMass Memorial Hospital confirmed the unexpected: the bite had been caused by a black widow spider.
A black widow spider bite can not only be painful, it can be fatal to the young, the elderly, and people with medical issues. Their venom is stronger than a rattlesnake’s, so attention should be paid to any insect or spider bite of unknown origin. With antibiotic treatment, however, recovery is possible.
Parents should take heed of the warning signs the Donovan family saw. The bluish bite mark began to turn dark purple and eventually black. According to Dr. William Durbin, who treated Kailyn at UMass Memorial Medical Center, however, the color is a warning sign. When the color of a bite turns dark purple and black, it is often because cell death (necrosis) is occurring.
- Clean the wound.
- Use mild soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment.
- Apply a cool compress. Use a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
- If the bite is on an arm or leg, elevate it.
- Use over-the-counter medications. Try a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), or an antihistamine (Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, others).
In addition, the Mayo Clinic says these symptoms, along with a bite that turns from blue to dark purple to black, could be an indicator of a black widow spider bite.
- At first, slight swelling and faint red marks.
- Intense pain and stiffness.
- Severe abdominal pain or cramping.
- Excessive sweating.
Whenever the source of a bite cannot be determined, and any of these symptoms are included, please consult a doctor.