5-Year-Old Girl Is Recovering From a Scary Reaction to a Black Widow Spider Bite

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A 5-year-old Massachusetts girl is recovering after what looked like a small bruise on the back of her leg turned out to be a venomous bite from a black widow spider. The girls’ parents are now speaking out to help raise awareness in the hopes that other families will be aware of the danger.

Kailyn Donovan’s mother and father, Josh and Kristine, first noticed a small, purple bruise on the back of their daughter’s knee last week. They were keeping an eye on it when Kailyn’s preschool called to let her parents know that she’d developed a fever.


Image: Twitter / @BostonGlobe

The parents took their daughter to her pediatrician, and the doctor recognized the bruise on Kailyn’s leg as a reaction to a bite. The doctor immediately sent the family to the emergency room, and that’s where things got dicey. The infection on Kailyn’s leg started turning black, which is a sign of necrosis (premature cell death). It took antibiotics and an infectious disease specialist at UMass Memorial Medical Center to identify the black widow as the spider that bit her.

Doctors hypothesize that the black widow bit the girl when she was playing in her backyard. Kailyn’s dad told WCVB “I didn’t know what to say. It’s not something you would expect, especially in Massachusetts.” Black widows are more common in western and southern states, but they can be found all across North America.


Black widow bites are not usually fatal, but their venom can be incredibly painful. In addition to pain at the site of the bite, the venom can cause pain and cramping in the body that is “so severe that it’s sometimes mistaken for appendicitis,” according to the Mayo Clinic. If you think your child has been bitten by a black widow or another venomous spider, the CDC recommends washing the site with soap and water and then seeing medical attention. And of course, follow your gut! The Donovan family told WCVB they were thankful for taking their doctor to her pediatrician after feeling like something just wasn’t right.

Best wishes to Kailyn!

(Image: Twitter / @BostonGlobe; iStock / JasonOndreicka)