Scorpion stings

Scorpion stings — although painful — are mostly harmless. About 30 of the estimated 1,500 species of scorpions can inflict potentially fatal stings. In the United States, only the bark scorpion, found mainly in the desert Southwest, has venom potent enough to cause severe symptoms. Elsewhere, lethal scorpion stings occur predominantly in Mexico, South America, and parts of Africa, the Middle East and India.

Scorpion stings are most serious in young children, older adults and pets. In the United States, healthy adults usually don't need treatment for scorpion stings, but if your child is stung, seek immediate medical care.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Most scorpion stings in the United States cause only minor signs and symptoms, such as pain and warmth at the sting site. The venom of the bark scorpion, native to Arizona, New Mexico and the California side of the Colorado River, is more toxic and can be life-threatening, particularly in children.

Mild signs and symptoms might include:

  • Pain, which can be intense
  • Numbness and tingling in the area around the sting
  • Slight swelling in the area around the sting

More-severe signs and symptoms might include:

  • Muscle twitching or thrashing
  • Unusual head, neck and eye movements
  • Drooling
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) or low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Accelerated heart rate (tachycardia) or irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)
  • Restlessness or excitability or inconsolable crying (in children)

When to see a doctor

It's always best to be safe. If you or your child is stung, follow these guidelines:

  • If you're concerned about a scorpion sting — even if your reaction is minor — first call your local poison control center for advice. To reach a poison control center in the U.S., call Poison Help at 800-222-1222.
  • Get immediate medical care for any child stung by a scorpion.
  • If you've been stung, get prompt care if you begin to experience widespread symptoms.
  • Seek medical attention right away if you or your child is stung while traveling in another country.

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