How to Treat a Scorpion Sting?

Scorpions are found across the globe – on every continent except Antarctica. Of the more than 1,300 species, however, only about 90 species are found in the United States. They are most commonly found in the Southern and Southwestern portions of the country. Scorpions are venomous, but don't let that scare you. For most scorpion stings, treatment needed is minor.

A hunter's weapon

Scorpions prey on insects – and even their own kind – for food, using the stingers on their tail to inject venom. Scorpion venom is a neurotoxin that interacts with chloride ions, which are responsible for telling muscles to relax. Research shows that scorpions can control the amount of venom they inject, and it is used for defense as well as hunting. According to Arizona State University's "Ask a Biologist" feature, here is a quick look at how it works:

For an insect, a scorpion sting is usually deadly, but for humans, the reaction is not nearly that severe.

Symptoms of a sting

In the case of most common types of scorpions, a sting will result in localized pain for a short amount of time, and will not require major treatment. In the U. S., however, there is one exception: Centruroides sculpturatus, also known as the Arizona bark scorpion. The sting of this scorpion can be life threatening, and scorpion sting treatment required may be more extensive. According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), symptoms of common stings usually subside within 48 hours and may include:

  • Stinging or burning sensations at the injection site (very little swelling or inflammation)

  • Positive "tap test" (i.e., extreme pain when the sting site is tapped with a finger)

  • Restlessness

  • Convulsions

  • Roving eyes

  • Staggering gait

  • Thick tongue sensation

  • Slurred speech

  • Drooling

  • Muscle twitches

  • Abdominal pain and cramps

  • Respiratory depression

Persons experiencing severe symptoms (convulsions, thick tongue sensation, difficulty breathing, etc.) should seek medical treatment.

Treat the source

In the case of most scorpion stings, treatment will require some common sense and basic first aid. Children, elderly and people with insect allergies should be monitored after a sting, as their reactions may be more severe. According to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, it is important to remain calm after a sting:

NIOSH also recommends those steps for scorpion sting treatment, and stresses that people who have insect allergies should also be prepared for such emergencies:

It can be tempting to ignore your symptoms, but the Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following steps if your condition worsens:

  • 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."

Now that you know what scorpion sting treatment entails, you can be ready should these pests sting you or your family members. But if you are seeing large numbers of scorpions in your home, consider calling a pest management professional to help you come up with control options.