What to Know About Scorpion Stings

Getting stung can be painful but is rarely serious

What to Do if You're Stung by a Scorpion

Melissa Ling / © TripSavvy 2018

Many types of scorpions roam the landscape in Arizona. Scorpions don't bite (because they have no teeth), but they do sting. If you remain calm, it is not difficult to treat a scorpion sting. Even if you are stung by the Arizona bark scorpion—found mainly in the Southwest and the only scorpion in the United States that can cause serious symptoms—it is not likely to be fatal or have long-lasting effects. Arizona medical centers are familiar with the treatment. Deaths from scorpion stings mainly occur in areas without access to the necessary medical care, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Rarely Life-Threatening

People who are allergic to stings and bites or people who have other medical conditions or weakened immune systems, along with babies, small children, and the elderly, are most at risk for serious complications from a scorpion sting, but stings are rarely life-threatening. It is not likely that a healthy adult would suffer serious effects from a sting. Mayo Clinic advises that you should get medical care immediately if a child is stung since the same amount of venom could have more serious effects, regardless of the symptoms you can observe.

Not All Scorpions Are Dangerous

Many people 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, familiarize yourself with the identifying features of the most common Arizona species.

Symptoms of a Scorpion Sting

It is important to recognize scorpion sting symptoms: immediate pain or burning, very little swelling, sensitivity to touch, and a numbness or tingling sensation. More severe symptoms, which indicate the venom effects have spread through the body, include difficulty breathing; muscle twitching; drooling; sweating; nausea and vomiting; high blood pressure; fast heart rate or irregular heartbeat; or unusual head, neck, and eye movements. These symptoms are most often seen in children who have been stung.

If you notice any of these more serious and widespread symptoms in anyone who has been stung, you should get medical care immediately.

What You Should Do After a Sting

If you are stung by any scorpion, including the venomous Arizona bark scorpion, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center suggest you take a few immediate actions.

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cool compress on the area of the scorpion sting for 10 minutes. Remove compress for 10 minutes and repeat as necessary.
  • If stung on a limb (arm or leg) keep the affected limb in a comfortable position.
  • Call the Banner Good Samaritan Poison Control Center. The staff will assess the symptoms of the person who has been stung to determine the course of action. If severe symptoms are present, 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. You can also call the Poison Help Line anywhere in the United States for help.
  • Make sure your tetanus shots and boosters are current.

Scorpion Sting Tips

It helps to know all you can about the habits of scorpions to better avoid them and protect your family and yourself.

  • Be careful when you're camping or during other outdoor activities to make sure that a scorpion has not made a home in your clothes, shoes, or sleeping bags.
  • Scorpions glow brightly under UV light (black light).
  • 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.

Disclaimer: If you are stung by a scorpion and are concerned about your symptoms, call a poison hotline, contact a medical professional, or go to an emergency room or urgent care center.