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Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Jun;30(5):836.e1-2. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2011.03.017.

Anaphylaxis to black widow spider antivenom.

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Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Denver Health, Denver, CO 80204, USA.


Black widow spider envenomation is commonly reported to poison centers. Black widow spider envenomation produces a clinical syndrome, known as latrodectism, characterized by headache, nausea, vomiting, several muscle cramping and pain, joint stiffness, hypertension, and regional diaphoresis. Black widow spider antivenom (Merck & Co, Inc, West Point, PA USA) is an effective and relatively safe treatment option. There is 1 clear case of anaphylaxis secondary to black widow spider antivenom reported in the medical literature. Here, we report a case of anaphylaxis to antivenom. A 12-year-old boy presented to the emergency department (ED) with diffuse, severe pain 2 1/2 hours after being bitten by a black widow spider on the right lower extremity. In the ED, the patient failed analgesic therapy with fentanyl and was given black widow spider antivenom. Within 45 minutes, he exhibited signs and symptoms consistent with anaphylaxis, including wheezing, chest tightness, pruritus, and urticarial rash. The patient was given standard therapy for anaphylaxis, and all of his signs and symptoms (including the pain secondary to the black widow envenomation) resolved over 6 hours of observation. Leading experts agree that the use of antivenom is indicated in cases of severe envenomation not responsive to standard therapy. Despite concern that the antivenom is an equine-derived whole IgG and can precipitate early hypersensitivity reactions, there is only 1 other reported case of anaphylaxis to the antivenom in the medical literature.

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