What Should I Know about Scorpion Stings?
What Are Scorpions?
Scorpions are a member of the Arachnida class and are closely related to spiders, ticks, and mites.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Scoripion Sting?
Scorpion stings are painful, and they can be fatal, especially children. Scorpions may sting more than once. The stinger, located at the end of the tail segment is usually not lost or left in the person's tissue after a sting.
Where Do Scorpions Hide?
Scorpions hunt at night and hide along rocks or trees during the days. Homes built in arid or desert regions commonly have scorpions in them. In 2015, there were reports of airline passenger(s) being stung in flight. The planes were landed before reaching their destinations to rid the aircraft of the scorpion(s).
Are Scorpion Stings Serious? Can You Die from One (Are they Fatal)?
Most scorpions are harmless and accidental. Although about 2000 species exist, only about 25-40 species can deliver enough venom to cause serious or lethal damage to humans. One of the more venomous or potentially dangerous species, especially for infants, young children, and the elderly in the United States is Centruroides exilicauda or bark scorpion.
What Do Scorpions Look Like (Pictures)? How Big and What Color Are They?
Centruroides exilicauda Scorpion
Scorpions have two pincers, 8 legs and an elongated body with a tail composed of segments; they range in length from about 9 to 21 cm. Some scorpions are smaller and more translucent and difficult to see. They may appear as a thin string on the ground. The last tail segment contains the stinger (also termed a telson) that transmits a toxin to the person who has been stung.
Scorpions come in a variety of colors - from tan to light brown to black.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Scorpion Sting? Can You Die from It?
What Does It Feel Like to Be Stung by a Scorpion?
Usually, the pain from a scorpion sting is moderate to severe that slowly decreases over time. Symptoms of a scorpion sting are pain, tingling, burning, or a numbing sensation at the site of the sting. The reaction to the sting may be mild.
Can You Die from a Scorpion Sting?
Rarely, a person experiencing a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis may develop severe symptoms throughout the body. Severe signs and symptoms of a sting from a scorpion include numbness throughout the body, difficulty swallowing, a thick tongue, blurred vision, roving eye movements, seizures, salivation, and difficulty breathing.
These symptoms constitute a medical emergency. Death may occur.
What Causes the Symptoms Associated with a Scorpion Sting?
The cause of the scorpion's sting symptoms is a barb or stinger that contains a protein toxin (also termed venom). The toxin is responsible for the symptoms listed above. The toxin is not pure; it contains a mixture of proteins (neurotoxin, protein inhibitors, and other substances). The types differ from species to species and likely have evolved to target the specific prey and predators of the particular scorpion species. Depending on the literature source, only about 25 to 40 of the approximate 2000 species of scorpions have toxins or venoms that are dangerous to humans. Chlorotoxin and Maurotoxin are two scorpion toxins that have been isolated and are currently being studied as potential treatments for diseases such as cancer.
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6 First Aid Treatments and Home Remedies for a Scorpion Sting
The treatment for scorpion stings are home remedies and rest.
- Wash the sting with soap and water and remove all jewelry because swelling of tissue may impede the circulation if it not allowed to expand (for example, a sting on a finger that has a ring surrounding it).
- Apply cool compresses, usually 10 minutes on and ten minutes off of the site of the sting.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) 1-2 tablets every 4 hours may be given to relieve pain (usually not to exceed 3g per 24 hours). Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) because they may contribute to other problems.
- Antibiotics are not helpful unless the sting area become secondarily infected.
- Do not cut into the wound or apply suction.
- If a child is 5 years or younger is stung, seek evaluation by a medical caregiver.
If the symptoms and signs of a scorpion sting increase in severity, Call Poison Control at 1 800 222 1222 and call 911 or go to your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department if you are unsure about what to do if you or someone else has been stung by a scorpion.
When Should You Go to the Doctor or Emergency Department for a Scorpion Sting?
Most infants, small children and the elderly, especially if they are stung by a bark scorpion, which inhabits large areas in Arizona and New Mexico, should be seen quickly by a doctor as some of the severe reactions occur in these populations. However, anyone who experiences the severe symptoms listed previously after a scorpion sting needs immediate treatment in an emergency department.
What to do:
- Call 911 and Poison Control (1-800-222-1222)
- Continuously apply ice to the sting area.
- If there is no danger to other people, carefully collecting a dead or injured scorpion into a sealed container to show to the physician may be helpful.
- Antivenom therapy is available for the Centruroides species (bark scorpion), the antivenom (Anascorp) has been approved for use against the bark scorpion sting in 2011 by the FDA. It is made by immunizing horses with the venom and then the antivenom (immunoglobulin) is harvested from horse blood. The antivenom may stop all symptoms within about 4 hours after administration. Other researchers are developing antivenom to other species of scorpions.
- All but the mildest of symptoms require hospital admission for 24 hours of observation, especially for children.
- Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications if antivenom is not available.
How Can You Prevent from Being Stung by a Scorpion?
Many scorpion stings can be prevented by taking precautions such as shaking out clothing and shoes to dislodge any scorpions, wearing clothing that covers the body (for example, wearing gloves and tucking in pant legs into boots may limit exposure). Many pesticides that are commercially used outside on homes may make some scorpions sluggish and easier to kill before they can sting. In addition, pesticides may markedly reduce the food source of scorpions.
Most researchers suggest that if you see or feel a scorpion on the skin brush it off quickly instead of slapping it because the scorpion will likely sting you if the slap does'nt kill it.
Scorpions glow (fluoresce) under a UV light (black light) so if you are doing tasks in areas where scorpions might live, for example, dark areas like a closet or underneath a porch, use a black light to find them before they sting you. You use this technique at night and at home when scorpions are more active and likely to bite you. They may be in on floors or in walls.
Reviewed on 1/9/2019
"Antidote for Scorpion Stings." FDA. Updated: Sep 09, 2018.