No Antivenin Available for Painful Black Widow Spider Bites

La Jolla woman's stinging experience sheds light on lack of remedy options

A La Jolla woman learned the hard way that there’s little relief if you are bitten by a black widow spider in San Diego County.

Diane Berol was watering roses outside her home on March 25 when a spider slipped inside her gardening glove and bit her twice between her fingers.

It was such a strong prickling sensation that even two weeks later, with one of her fingers still swollen, Berol said she could still feel the pain.

“The pain was so intense,” Berol said. “By the time I reached this tree, I had to stop watering it because I couldn’t. I thought I might die right here.”

A trip to Scripps La Jolla’s emergency room confirmed it was a black widow spider bite. Her husband, John, started researching remedies.

It turned out there wasn’t any – at least here in San Diego County.

“There is antivenin available that works really well. It would have taken care of the problem in 15 and (it would have been) done and over with, but it wasn’t available,” John Berol said.

While these type of spider bites are not life threatening, they can cause extreme pain. And Berol said pain medication did little to ease the discomfort.

Scripps La Jolla confirmed the antivenin made by pharmaceutical giant Merck isn’t available.

So what’s the deal? Black widows aren’t aggressive and bites are uncommon, so the Berols think having a ready supply of the antivenin isn’t a priority.

“I endured what felt like somebody put a hot razor blade in a flame and decided to slice it up through my hand,” she said.

Fortunately, medical experts say not everyone has this extreme of a reaction to the bites.

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