According to medical professionals, most scorpion stings, while painful, are typically nonlethal to the average adult. The same cannot always be said for children or the elderly, who are more susceptible to its effects and will likely need medical attention. Everyone, however, should take a sting from the bark scorpion seriously. Its venom is the most potent in the United States and can be fatal even to healthy adults.
This species is native to the desert regions of the southwest, thriving in Arizona, New Mexico, and California, and is anything but typical. In fact, it is the only species in the United States considered potentially dangerous to all. Worldwide, about 30 species can be lethal. In Mexico, North Africa, South America, and the Middle East especially, scorpions threaten public health. Those who live or travel in these areas must be aware and use caution.
Millions of individuals are stung each year. For the above reasons, it is important to know what to do if stung by a scorpion. There is a difference between symptoms that should resolve on their own and what indicates something much more serious. Knowing what to look for will help.
Why and How a Scorpion Stings
Scorpions do not sting without reason. When caught off guard or attacked, they will defend themselves. They do this by stabbing at the threat with a stinger at the tip of their tails. They can control both the amount and toxicity of venom they release. Some species’ venom contains neurotoxins that affect the nervous system while others’ venom leads to cardiovascular complications.
It should be noted that scorpions do not bite. You may hear people refer to a scorpion bite, but this is simply a misunderstanding on their part. Scorpions only sting.
What to do When Stung by a Scorpion
What to do if you get stung by a scorpion depends on who you are. As mentioned previously, it will not typically cause problems for the average, otherwise healthy, adult. In most instances, symptoms appear only around the wound itself. These include pain or warmth, both of which can be quite severe, in addition to redness and swelling. The area may also grow numb or start to tingle. Usually, these occur within the first five minutes and improve on their own within a few hours. This may not be true, however, in the case of the bark scorpion. In this instance, a call to the doctor or a trip to the emergency room may be in order. Severe symptoms typically manifest quickly, so initially, treat it as you would any other scorpion sting and monitor symptoms. If they worsen, seek medical attention.
For those wondering how you would know if you’ve been stung by this species, there is a guaranteed way to find out. Those stung, especially if living in the southwest region, should catch the scorpion, kill it, and bring it along when seeking treatment. Of course, knowing what one looks like may also help with avoiding it, and when bit, knowing how serious it could be.
The Bark Scorpion
The Arizona bark scorpion is two to three inches long, tan in color, and as previously mentioned, is unlike others in the United States. It lives in tree bark, in and around logs, and under rocks. People can encounter one when engaging in any of several outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking in wooded or rocky areas.
Unfortunately, they are also the most common species found indoors, hiding concealed within firewood, shoes, and garbage. Nocturnal arthropods, they mostly venture out at night. Nonetheless, it only takes putting on a shoe or going out for the trash to come upon one by mistake. It will be as unpleasantly surprised as you.
The Young and Old
No matter the species of scorpion involved, the situation is serious in the case of both the young and the elderly. This is because these individuals are more susceptible to complications. The same amount of venom may cause them life-threatening conditions while others would have only a mild reaction. Therefore, if someone young or old is stung, medical treatment should be sought immediately. It is always best to err on the side of caution.
Scorpion Bite Symptoms
Serious scorpion sting symptoms should any develop, typically appear within an hour. At this point, venom could have spread to areas far from the wound. Indications of this include labored breathing, muscle spasms, drooling, sweating, vomiting, and excitability. Increases in blood pressure and heart rate with an irregular beat are also signs of a serious, potentially life-threatening reaction. Most of those who have died experienced heart or respiratory failure within hours. It should be noted, however, that it has been nearly 50 years since a death from a scorpion sting was reported in the United States.
Some individuals may also be allergic to scorpions, as others are allergic to bee or wasp stings. In this instance, an encounter could easily prove fatal. Severe allergic reactions could cause anaphylaxis, a quickly developing and deadly condition. Indicators of a serious allergy also include nausea and vomiting, breathing difficulties, and hives.
What to do for a Scorpion Sting
Scorpion sting treatment is often quite easy. Those who lack more serious symptoms can treat a sting while at home. First, it should be cleaned using soap and water. Ice placed on the affected area for 20 minutes will reduce any pain and swelling. The cold may also prevent the venom from spreading as quickly. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can be used for pain.
Scorpion sting treatment for more severe reactions may require a combination of sedatives and medications administered in a healthcare setting. These are often administered in cases of high blood pressure, agitation, and discomfort. Scorpion antivenom is given either for those with the most severe symptoms or as a preventative measure for others who would lack access to proper care if the situation became serious.
The Truth About Scorpion Stings
What to do for a scorpion sting varies based on who was stung and what type of scorpion it was. Generally, healthy adults should not worry, while children and the elderly need medical support. Extremely poisonous species may require hospitalization. Take precautions in areas where scorpions live and attempt to bring it with you for identification if you are bitten. Hopefully, you never will be, but now you will know what to expect if you are.