LA PAZ, Bolivia — Three Bolivian boys tending to goats in their small town wound up in the hospital earlier this month after letting a black widow spider bite them, believing it would give them superpowers like Spider-Man.
The boys, aged 12, 10 and 8, from the village of Chayanta, found the black widow while they grazed their goats. They goaded the spider into biting them after poking at it with a stick, Virgilio Pietro, chief epidemiologist at the Bolivian ministry of health, told Telemundo.
The boys’ mother, gathering firewood nearby, rushed them to a local clinic after they started showing symptoms. When their symptoms didn’t improve, officials took them to a nearby hospital and then eventually to the Children’s Hospital in La Paz. They were treated for the bites and later released.
Bolivian officials say this is a teaching moment for parents to warn their children to be careful and remember that even though things in the movies and on the TV look real, they can be very dangerous.
The National Poison Control Center says that while black widow bites are dangerous, especially to young children and the elderly, rarely are they fatal.
“These spiders like dark, undisturbed areas. You might find them in stacks of wood, brush piles, corners of garages and sheds, under flowerpots, inside gardening gloves and boots, and other sheltered places. Black widow spiders won’t come after you. But if they feel threatened, they will bite.”
A bite from a black widow can cause muscle cramps, severe abdominal pain, and weakness.
The Poison Control Center says that if you are bitten by a black widow to wash the area well with soap and water, if there is no pain or if the pain is mild, there is no need to seek special treatment.
Black Widows like dark and undisturbed areas which means that most of the time that they interact with humans it can be when people are out working in their garages, gardens or basements.
“Because black widow spiders hide, you might not see them even if they’re close by. Protect yourself in areas where they might live,” Clinical Toxicologist, Rose Ann Gould Soloway says. Some of the tips she has for avoiding a bite from a black widow are:
- Shake out your gardening gloves before putting them on. Shake out boots or shoes that you’ve stored in garages, basements, or sheds before putting them on.
- Always wear gloves when moving wood, reaching into wood piles, handling mulch, grabbing empty flower pots, etc.
- If you’ll be working in a garage or shed, or under a porch or deck, wear a hat to protect your head.
If someone is bitten by a black widow spider, the national number to contact Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222.
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