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Scorpion Stings Can Be Painful and Serious

What To Do If a Scorpion Stings


Desert Hairy Scorpion, Arizona, USA

Desert Hairy Scorpion

James Gerholdt/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Scorpions don't bite (no teeth), but they do sting. We have many types of scorpions in Arizona. If you remain calm, it is not difficult to treat a scorpion sting. Even if you are stung by the Arizona Bark Scorpion -- the most dangerous and venomous of the our scorpions -- it is not likely to be fatal or even to have long-lasting effects. Local medical centers are familiar with the treatment.

Many people who contact me think that every scorpion they come across is the dreaded Arizona bark scorpion. That's not the case, but it is prudent to err on the side of caution if you are stung. If you want to be able to recognize scorpions when you come across them, here are some identifying features of the most common Arizona species. You can also check out the scorpion image gallery comprised of photos submitted by readers.

It is important to recognize scorpion sting symptoms: immediate pain or burning, very little swelling, sensitivity to touch, and a numbness/tingling sensation. Often people tell me that they didn't even know they were stung by a scorpion when it happened. Some people are especially sensitive to the sting and have scary stories to tell (a few are probably somewhat exaggerated).

If you are stung by any scorpion, including the venomous Arizona Bark Scorpion, here are some immediate actions you should take:

  1. Wash the area with soap and water.
  2. Apply a cool compress on the area of the scorpion sting. Ice (wrapped in a washcloth or other suitable covering) may be applied to the sting location for ten minutes. Remove compress for ten minutes and repeat as necessary.
  3. If stung on a limb (arm or leg) elevate the limb to heart level.
  4. Call the Banner Good Samaritan Poison Control Center Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. They will assess the symptoms of the person who has been stung to determine the course of action. If severe symptoms are present (these might include blurry vision, muscle twitching, roving eye movements, or other non-typical symptoms), they will direct you to the nearest emergency facility for treatment. If a decision is made to keep the person at home, the Poison Center staff can follow up to make sure that the person is not developing symptoms that might need medical intervention or antivenin. Learn more about how the Banner Poison Control Center works.
  5. Keep your tetanus shots and boosters current.

Scorpion Sting Tips

  1. Be careful when camping or during other outdoor activities to make sure that a scorpion has not made a home in your clothes, shoes or sleeping bags.
  2. Scorpions glow brightly under UV light (black light).
  3. Scorpions are hard to kill off. If you suspect your house has scorpions, call a professional exterminator. Eliminating their food source (other insects) can help.
  4. Few people die from scorpion stings, even the sting of the bark scorpion. Scorpion stings are most dangerous to the very young and the very old. Pets are also at risk.

All You Need To Know About Living With Scorpions in Phoenix: General Information, Species, Stings, Remedies, Prevention, Maps, Photos

Source: Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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