What happens if scorpion bites you?

Scorpion stings can be painful, but in most cases, they will not cause any major complications. What a person should do after a scorpion sting depends on the type of scorpion and the symptoms that follow.

If a person experiences any of the following symptoms after a scorpion sting, they need immediate medical attention:

  • difficulty breathing
  • drooling
  • difficulty swallowing
  • seizures or muscle jerking
  • hives and swelling over the body
  • difficulty standing
  • unconsciousness

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), experiencing a sting from the bark scorpion can cause life threatening complications.

What to Do

The CDC recommends that adults take the following steps if a scorpion stings them:

  • Contact a healthcare provider or Poison Control for instructions and advice related to the sting.
  • Apply ice to the sting site to help with pain and swelling.
  • Remain calm and relaxed.
  • Avoid taking any sort of sedative.
  • According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, if a scorpion stings a child, what a parent or caregiver should do depends on their reaction to the sting.

For example, they recommend self-care if mild symptoms — such as pain, numbness, or tingling — occur only around the site of the sting.

However, if a parent or caregiver is concerned, or if the child’s last tetanus shot was more than 10 years ago, they should inform a doctor of the sting.

They may also want to call a doctor if skin flushing starts to spread after 24 hours from the sting.

A person should call emergency services if an adult or child experiences the following:

  • muscle jerking or spasms
  • difficulty swallowing
  • drooling
  • leg weakness
  • unconsciousness
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling or hives over the body
According to Poison Control, those with the highest risk of developing severe symptoms are young children.


For most stings, symptoms will consist of mostly local reactions to the sting. Fewer than 10% of all scorpion stings will cause severe symptoms.

Young children and older adults are most likely to develop life threatening reactions to a sting.

Around 85% of bark scorpion stings cause only a mild, local reaction. About 10% cause waves of pain in the legs or arms, and around 5% cause serious symptoms.

Mild symptoms of a scorpion sting may include:

  • tingling, pain, or numbness at the site of the sting
  • limited or no swelling
  • limited or no skin flushing
  • tingling, pain, or numbness that travels up the arm or leg
  • symptoms that typically only last for about 24 hours.

If serious symptoms occur, they will develop within 2–3 hours of the sting. The first serious symptom may be rapid eye movements or muscle twitching.

Other serious symptoms and complications may include:

  • jerky eye movements
  • blurry vision
  • muscle twitching
  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • slurred speech


According to Poison Control, there has not been a reported death from a scorpion sting for nearly 50 years.

However, complications can occur. If a person has reached the grade 4 classification scale, they may experience:

  • high body temperatures
  • pulmonary edema
  • multiple organ failure
  • rhabdomyolysis, which occurs when the muscle tissues break down and release a protein called myoglobin into the blood


The CDC recommend that people at risk of exposure, such as those working in outside areas, take the following steps:

  • Wear leather gloves.
  • Wear long sleeves.
  • Shake out clothing, shoes, and boots before putting them on.

A person should also carry an epinephrine auto-injector if they have a history of allergic reactions to insect bites or stings.

Scorpions are most active at night. Therefore, people should exercise extra caution working outside at night.

When to see a doctor

A person should see a doctor if they have symptoms that get worse within 2–3 hours of the sting.

A person needs emergency medical care if they have severe, potentially life threatening conditions that develop immediately following a sting.


Scorpion stings are not usually a life threatening issue.

After experiencing a sting, a person should wash the area with soap and water and contact Poison Control for guidance.

Often, a person will only need home care, such as pain relievers and ice. However, more serious cases may require additional medication and treatment.

With proper medical care, most people should recover from a serious case.

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