Treating and preventing scorpion stings
What is a scorpion sting?
The Arizona Bark Scorpion is the only scorpion in the United States with a potentially life-threatening sting. It’s one of about 30 scorpions in the world with venom that can potentially kill an adult human. Yet, as we’ll review below, deaths from scorpion stings are incredibly rare.
Bark scorpions are a relatively small, sandy-colored scorpion with two thin pincers and a tail that is typically curled at its side—not elevated up, as with other scorpions. A sting from its tail is capable of delivering enough venom to cause significant reactions in humans.
Bark scorpion venom contains neurotoxins. As their name suggests, the venom attacks your body’s nervous system, firing up pain receptors and nerve endings. This is why most stings result in numbness in the affected area, and even convulsions.
However, these symptoms are not permanent, and—in most cases—your body will flush the neurotoxins out without further intervention. We’ll discuss below whether or not your sting requires hospitalization.
Do I have a scorpion problem?
Not sure if you have scorpions in or around your home? That’s where we come in! At KY-KO Pest Prevention, we’re the Valley’s leading scorpion control team. We help homeowners find and deal with their scorpion problems, eliminating the infestation for good.
Just how dangerous are scorpion stings?
While categorized officially as potentially life-threatening, bark scorpions rarely kill people. Every year, thousands of Phoenix homeowners are stung by scorpions. However, since 1968, only two people have died in Arizona from stings. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning multiple times in a row than dying from a sting.
Why are deaths so low? Well, to start, most stings are not serious. Adult scorpions, as we’ll discuss below, can control how much venom they sting with. When threatened, they’ll often sting with less, much like a ship fires a warning shot across the bow.
When stings are serious, Phoenix-area hospitals have antivenom in-stock, designed to counteract the venom’s effect. This has greatly reduced the mortality rate of scorpion stings.
Do I need to go to a hospital?
Scorpion stings can vary widely in their impact, both from person-to-person and from scorpion-to-scorpion.
Most people find scorpion stings on-par, or perhaps slightly more painful, than a bee or wasp sting. For others, the sting is far more painful than either, but can be managed at home with a cold compress and pain medication. We’ve provided some tips for this below.
Hospitalization for bark scorpion stings is rarely needed. Out of the thousands of Phoenix homeowners who are stung every year, only a handful have severe symptoms.
Here are some relatively normal symptoms from a sting:
— numbness or loss of feeling in the affected area
— moderate to high pain, stemming from where the sting occurred
— mild convulsions in the arm or leg that was stung
However, if your sting has:
— caused extreme pain, far beyond what you can tolerate
— led to severe vomiting, nausea, or other health problems
— provoked an allergic reaction, or sustained difficulty breathing
You should speak with a qualified medical professional immediately. They may advise you to go to the hospital as a precaution.
When are stings dangerous?
There are a few scenarios that make scorpion stings more dangerous than usual.
Contrary to popular myth, baby or juvenile scorpions are not more venomous than their adult counterparts. But, they can often be more dangerous. Unlike adults of their species, infants or juveniles often release the full amount of venom when threatened; adults, as discussed above, may sting with a test strike to protect themselves.
This often means that the sting ends up being more severe, even if the total amount of venom or its composition is the same regardless of the scorpion’s age.
Just like bee stings, things are much more serious if you are allergic to scorpion venom. Unlike with bee stings—which are more common—you may not know if you’re allergic until well into adulthood.
Allergic reactions to stings can include severe swelling, nausea, difficulty breathing, and more. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, call a medical professional immediately.
Children and Infants
Scorpion stings are rarely life-threatening for children or infants, but the lower body mass-to-venom ratio means the effects can be more severe. Children are more likely to be stung by scorpions—they may not recognize them as a threat, and can encounter them while playing inside or outside.
If your child has been stung by a scorpion, call their pediatrician or a medical professional right away to get more information on next steps.
Treating a scorpion sting
If you’ve been stung, but your symptoms are not severe, you should be able to treat the sting at home. Here are the steps you should take:
Clean the sting
You’ll want to start by cleaning the part of your body that was stung. Wash the affected area with warm water and soap. This greatly lowers the odds of future infection, and can help with the healing process.
Cool things down
While you’re cleaning the affected area, put a damp towel in the freezer. The stung area will start to burn. Having a cool towel on hand can greatly reduce the pain from this. Lightly press the cool towel against the sting site. You should feel the relief.
Take pain medication
You’re likely in a great deal of pain. Take the recommended dosage of an over-the-counter pain medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. This should help alleviate some of the pain. Continue as directed until the pain subsides.
Questions? Talk to an expert.
If you’ve been stung and have questions about what you should do, contact Poison Control. They’ll be able to talk you through what you’re experiencing and recommend what you should do next.
You can reach Poison Control here in Arizona by calling 800-222-1222.
Avoiding scorpion stings
It’s not always possible to avoid scorpion stings. After all, most stings occur due to accidental contact. Bark scorpions are generally not aggressive—they tend to sting when cornered or immediately threatened. Here are a few examples:
— While reaching into a kitchen drawer, your hand brushes up against a scorpion hanging from the underside of the drawer. The scorpion strikes in self-defense.
— While going to your kitchen in the middle of the night, you step on a scorpion. As you crush it, it stings you.
Noticing signs of scorpions around your home? Here are some things you can do to avoid stings:
Wear shoes indoors
Most Arizonans know to shake out their shoes before putting them on. But, after doing that, you should wear slippers, shoes, or sandals while walking around your home at night. Many scorpion stings happen when they’re accidentally stepped on.
Reach with caution
Try to watch where you reach or extend your arm. If you’re reaching into a dark, little-used closet, for instance, move things around so you can see where you’re reaching before you go to grab something.
Avoid dead scorpions
Here’s a fun bark scorpion fact: sometimes, scorpions can ‘play possum’ or appear dead. Homeowners are then stung when attempting to pick them up. The muscles that administer a sting can actually fire in a dead scorpion, under certain circumstances.
If you find a dead scorpion, use a broom and dustpan to pick it up. Never reach for a scorpion with just your bare hands or a paper towel.
Use a blacklight
Bark scorpions glow bright when exposed to UV light, such as that from a blacklight. Carrying a blacklight can help you avoid scorpions at night.
Our scorpion control experts can help you.
Phoenix may be famous for its scorpions, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck living with them or the threat of a sting. It’s time to take action. At KY-KO Pest Prevention, we specialize in helping homeowners live scorpion-free.
Start with a free scorpion inspection. We’ll identify if your home has scorpions and—if so—where they’re hiding and how to best deal with them. We’ll then put together an action plan for your home that focuses on removing the current scorpion population, making your home less attractive to them, and then sealing your home to prevent scorpions from returning.