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Scorpion Stings

Conditions Basics

What is a scorpion?

Scorpions, found mostly across the southern and western United States, are up to 3 in. (7.6 cm) in length. They have eight legs and a pair of pincers like a crab has. The stinger, which injects venom, is located at the end of a narrow tail that curves around and over the back of the scorpion's body. Although some scorpions are not poisonous, others have venom strong enough to kill a person.

Some scorpions are found in cool, damp places, such as basements, junk piles, and wood piles. Other scorpions are found in desert areas.

What are the symptoms of a scorpion sting?

Symptoms of a scorpion sting may include:

  • Intense immediate pain lasting from minutes to 24 hours.
  • Swelling, itching, and a change in skin color.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Anxiety, drowsiness, and fainting.
  • Increased saliva, tears, and sweat.
  • Numbness of the tongue.
  • Vision problems.
  • Trouble breathing.

How is a scorpion sting treated?

If you have been stung by a scorpion, it's important to talk to a doctor immediately. Medicine (antivenom) may be needed to counteract the effects of the scorpion sting.

Home treatment

  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Try an over-the-counter medicine for itching, redness, swelling, and pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin), to help calm the itching or swelling.
    • Put a hydrocortisone 1% cream or calamine lotion on the skin.
  • Don't scratch or rub the skin around the area.

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine

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