Scorpion Stings

ByRobert A. Barish, MD, MBA, University of Illinois at Chicago;
Thomas Arnold, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport
Reviewed/Revised Jun 2022 | Modified Sep 2022

The stings of North American scorpions are rarely serious and usually result in pain, minimal swelling, tenderness, and warmth at the sting site. However, the bark scorpion (Centruroides exilicauda or C. sculpturatus), which is present in Arizona and New Mexico and on the California side of the Colorado River, has a much more toxic sting. The sting is painful, sometimes causing numbness or tingling in the area around the sting. Serious symptoms are more common in children and include

  • Abnormal head, eye, and neck movements

  • Increased saliva production

  • Sweating

  • Restlessness

Some people develop severe involuntary twitching and jerking of muscles and very high blood pressure. Breathing may become difficult.

(See also Introduction to Bites and Stings.)

Treatment of Scorpion Stings

  • Relief of pain

  • Sometimes relief of high blood pressure

  • Sometimes antivenom

The stings of most North American scorpions require no special treatment. Placing an ice cube wrapped in plastic and a thin cloth on the wound reduces pain. A cream or ointment containing an antihistamine, an anesthetic, a corticosteroid, or a combination of them is often useful.

CentruroidesCentruroides antivenom rapidly relieves symptoms, but it may cause a serious allergic reaction. The antivenom is available only in Arizona. It is given only if symptoms are severe.

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