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Scorpion Sting

Is this your symptom?

  • Sting from a scorpion
  • Onset of local pain and tingling after a scorpion is seen in the area
  • The main symptoms are pain, tingling, and numbness at the sting site

Key Points

  • Scorpion stings often occur on a hand or a foot. They occur when a person disturbs a scorpion. Examples are stepping on one or reaching under a rock or pile of wood.
  • Most scorpion stings cause mild symptoms such as redness and pain at the sting site.
  • Stings from bark scorpions (found in the Southwest) can cause more serious symptoms.


There are hundreds of different types of scorpions in the world. Scorpions look like tiny lobsters. They have a long tail with a stinger at the end. The tail curls up and over the scorpion's body. Scorpions are most active at night. They like dark and moist places.

The sting of most scorpions can cause pain, numbness, and tingling at the sting site. There are three scorpions in North America that can sometimes cause serious, even life-threatening symptoms:

  • Bark scorpion. Found in the southwestern United States and Mexico.
  • Mexican scorpion. Found in northern Mexico.
  • Striped scorpion. Found in the southwestern United States and Mexico.


The most common symptom is pain at the site of the sting. There may be numbness, tingling, redness and swelling around the sting mark. However, there can be pain without any visible sting mark.

More serious symptoms happen in about 1 in 10 people stung by a scorpion. Babies and young children are at higher risk of severe reactions. Serious symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting (throwing up)
  • Fast heart beat
  • Muscle jerks
  • Restlessness
  • Roving or wild eye movements
  • Sweating
  • Trouble swallowing and drooling
  • Trouble breathing and wheezing

Symptoms usually get better in 24-48 hours.

When to Call for Scorpion Sting

Call 911 Now

  • Passed out (fainted)
  • Very weak (can't stand)
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Drooling or trouble swallowing
  • Seizure or muscle jerking
  • Hives or swelling all over the body
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Last tetanus shot was more than 10 years ago
  • Sting is red or very tender to touch and this started more than 24 hours after the sting
  • Sting is red or very tender to touch and it is getting larger more than 48 hours after the sting
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have diabetes and a scorpion sting on your foot
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor scorpion sting with symptoms only around the sting
  • How to prevent scorpion stings

Care Advice

Treating Scorpion Stings

  1. What You Should Know:
    • You should suspect a scorpion sting if you have symptoms of a sting and found a scorpion nearby.
    • Most scorpion stings cause mild symptoms such as pain and tingling at the sting site.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Cleansing: Wash the sting thoroughly with soap and water.
  3. Local Cold:
    • Wrap a bag of ice in a towel to the sting (or a bag of frozen vegetables, like peas).
    • Apply this cold pack to the area of the sting for 10-20 minutes every hour for the first 4 hours.
  4. Pain Medicine:
    • You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
    • Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Some pain for 1-2 days. It shouldn't be any worse than a bee sting.
    • Numbness and tingling in the area of the sting may last for a couple days.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Serious symptoms occur
    • You have symptoms in other parts of your body, not just at sting
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Preventing Scorpion Stings

  1. Prevention:
    • Do not walk barefoot in the desert, especially at night.
    • Check your shoes before you put them on.
    • Shake out clothes, towels, and sleeping bags before using.
  2. Prevention - Around Your Home:
    • Clear away any piles of wood, debris that are near the house. Reason: scorpions hide there.
    • Weatherstrip your windows and doors.
    • Fix holes and cracks in the walls of the house.
    • Place the legs of a baby's crib in wide-mouthed glass jars (scorpions can't climb glass).
    • Hire a pest control expert for repeated problems with scorpions.
  3. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have more questions

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 1/24/2020 1:00:36 AM
Last Updated: 3/14/2019 1:00:27 AM

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