5-year-old bitten by a black widow spider is recovering

Kristine Donovan

A 5-year-old girl was recovering after a black widow spider bit her leg, apparently while she was playing outside her Mendon home.

“She never even said anything had bit her,” the child’s mother, Kristine Donovan, said Sunday. “We assumed it was outside in our backyard. We haven’t gone anywhere, so it had to have probably been in our backyard.”

Donovan plans to spray her yard with pesticide and have an exterminator treat her house. She said that Dr. William Durbin, the pediatric infectious diseases specialist treating her daughter, believes the spider was outside, and while black widows are somewhat rare in Massachusetts, “they are around.”


Durbin said he typically treats a couple of black widow spider bites each year.

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A “purple, little tiny bruise” first appeared on the back of Kailyn’s leg around a week ago, Donovan said. At first, she decided to simply “watch it,” but as the bruise became a large red line, Donovan grew worried.

The first doctor Kailyn saw suspected cellulitis, a common bacterial skin infection, Donovan said. However, the bruise did not respond to antibiotics and began turning black and purple.

Donovan then took her daughter to UMass Memorial Medical Center, where Kailyn stayed overnight on Friday.

On Saturday morning, Donovan said, she received confirmation it was a black widow spider bite. The purple color was a byproduct of necrosis, or cell death, according to Durbin, who has been treating Kailyn since Saturday.

JIM GATHANY/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/File
A female black widow spider.

“She had a very distinctive bite, which was very scary for her parents and of course the doctors, too,” Durbin said.

He called her infection “very superficial” and said the child is otherwise healthy.

Donovan said Durbin has been proactive in monitoring her daughter’s progress. “He had me send him a picture this morning,” she said.

He said that in about a week, the dead cells will fall off and the redness will recede, marking a complete recovery.

Kailyn does not seem bothered by the bite, her mother said. Set to start kindergarten in the fall, she is ready to spend her summer outside.


“She’s been really good about it,” Donovan said. “Obviously, she wants to go out and play, and we’re trying to keep her in the house for a little bit.”

Kristine Donovan

Rowan Walrath can be reached Follow her on Twitter@rswalrath.