Scorpion sting – symptoms, causes and other risk factors

Scorpion bite Symptoms and Causes

The scorpion bite or scorpion sting is painful but there are rare cases when it is life – threatening condition. Young children and in some cases very old people are having the risk of serious complications. In the United States of America, the only scorpion species with venom potent enough to cause severe symptoms is the bark scorpion. The bark scorpion is found mainly in the desert Southwest. Worldwide, there are estimated 1.500 species of scorpions and only about 30 of them are producing venom toxic enough to be fatal [1]. There are millions of scorpion stings which are happening each year and they are often in areas that have a lack of access to medical care and this is a reason why deaths caused by scorpion stings are significant public health problem in parts of India, the Middle East, North Africa, South America and Mexico. Usually, healthy adults do not need treatment for scorpion stings. But if your child is stung, then the same amount of venom can have more – serious consequences so this is a reason why you should seek immediate medical care for scorpion bite. [2]

Scorpion sting symptoms

In the most cases, scorpion stings are causing only localized signs and symptoms, such as warmth and pain at the site of the sting. There are some cases when these symptoms can be quite intense, even if you do not see the swelling or redness. Here are some signs and symptoms at the site of the sting:

  • Slight swelling in the area around the sting
  • Tingling and numbness in the area around the sting
  • Pain, which can be intense

The signs and symptoms which are related to widespread (systemic) venom effects are usually happening in children who are stung and they are including:

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

You should know that is the same case for scorpion bites, as with other stinging insects, such as wasps and bees, for people who have previously been stung by scorpions, to have allergic reactions with subsequent stings. You should know that these subsequent stings are severe enough to cause anaphylaxis, which is a life – threatening condition [3]. The signs and symptoms in this case are similar to the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis which are caused by bee stings and they include vomiting, nausea, trouble breathing and hives.

Scorpion bite Symptoms and Causes

Scorpion sting causes

We know that scorpions are arthropods, which means that they are relatives of crustaceans, spiders and insects. The length of average scorpion is 7.6 centimeters (about 3 inches). It is known that scorpions have 8 legs and a pair of lobster – like pinchers and a tail that curves up. It is known that scorpions sting rather than bite and they are using the stinger in their tails. Their venom is a mix of complex toxins which is affecting the neurotoxins (nervous system). It is known that scorpions are nocturnal creatures which resist stinging unless they are attacked or provoked. Scorpions can control the amount of venom which they are releasing and this is depending on how threatened they feel so in some cases scorpion stings can be almost entirely venomless.

Risk factors: Here are some factors which can increase your risk of scorpion sting:

  • Travel: While you are traveling to certain parts of the world, you are more likely to encounter more – dangerous scorpions but also you might bring them home with you. Scorpions can hide in shipping containers, luggage and clothing. [4]
  • Geography: It is known that in the United States of America, scorpions mainly live in the desert Southwest, primarily New Mexico, Arizona and parts of California. In the world, mostly they are found in India, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and Mexico. [5]
  • Environment: The bark scorpions live under logs, rocks and tree barks and this is from where their name comes. If you are camping or hiking, then you have increased chances to see these scorpions. Also bark scorpions are common in shoes, bed lines, garbage pails and hiding in firewood. [6]


[1] Scorpion sting. 2019. Retrieved from

[2] Abd El-Aziz FEA, El Shehaby DM, Elghazally SA, Hetta HF. Toxicological and epidemiological studies of scorpion sting cases and morphological characterization of scorpions (Leiurusquin questriatus and Androctonus crassicauda) in Luxor, Egypt. Toxicology Reports. 2019;6:329-35.

[3] Castillo A, Attaluri P. Acute respiratory failure following scorpion stings: Anaphylaxis or severe systemic envenomation? The Southwest Respiratory and Critical Care Chronicles. 2018;6(22):47.

[4] Dehghani R, Arani MG. Scorpion sting prevention and treatment in ancient Iran. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2015;5(2):75-80.

[5] Min Kang A, Brooks DE. Nationwide scorpion exposures reported to US poison control centers from 2005 to 2015. Journal of Medical Toxicology. 2017;13(2):158–65.

[6] Hedgecock-Rowe A, Fletcher P. Astudy of the venom of Centruroides exilicauda or Centruroides sculpturatus and the desert mouse, Onychomys sp. Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins. 2001;7(2).


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