Globally, about 1.5 million people are stung by scorpions each year, and 2,600 of those stings are fatal. Encountering a scorpion is always an unsettling surprise, and scorpion stings can cause severe pain. But just how much of a threat are scorpions to your life and well-being?
If you live in Texas, you may have encountered a striped bark scorpion (a pale yellow scorpion with brown stripes). Read on to learn just how dangerous these critters are and what to do if one stings you.
- While scorpion stings are rarely life-threatening, they are painful, can cause dangerous allergic reactions, and their symptoms can lead to fatal complications.
- If you’ve been stung by a striped bark scorpion and exhibit any symptoms beyond pain and swelling at the sting site, call 911 immediately.
- If you encounter more than one scorpion in your home, it’s best to call a pest control professional.
Are Striped Bark Scorpions Dangerous?
Scorpions are one of the most-feared creepy crawlers—these arachnids can be unsightly, and will opt for any cool, dark hiding spot (including under rocks in your yard or even in your shoes). But while scorpions can be scary to encounter, are they actually dangerous?
Like all scorpions, striped bark scorpions (centruroides vittatus) can sting, and their sting is painful and venomous. However, the sting of a striped bark scorpion is almost never life-threatening (unless an allergic reaction occurs). Scorpions are shy around humans and would much rather flee than sting, but won’t hesitate to sting if they are disturbed.
Just like with a wasp or bee sting, certain people may have allergic reactions to scorpion stings that require medical attention. Anaphylaxis (or anaphylactic shock) from a scorpion sting can be life-threatening, or may cause symptoms like hives, nausea, vomiting, or respiratory issues on a more minor scale.
Striped bark scorpions (similar to the Arizona bark scorpion, but with distinctive stripes) are a species of scorpion common in Texas, the rest of the middle of America (they’re the only type of scorpion found in Missouri), and Northern Mexico.
They’re pale yellowish brown in color, typically with two long dark stripes culminating in a dark triangle at the head. They have stingers at the ends of their long tails, and “pincers” (claws used to capture prey).
Striped bark scorpions are nocturnal and spend most of their time under rocks, in plants and woodpiles, or inside barns and sheds. Luckily, their sting is only mildly toxic (but can still cause sharp pain, swelling, redness, and sometimes muscle spasms).
Aside from the potential of a painful sting, striped bark scorpions are harmless and will avoid humans wherever possible. Just be sure to take caution in areas where striped bark scorpions have been seen—they’re skilled at hiding in cool, dark spots and will sting if they’re bothered. If you must lift rocks, do so carefully, and be sure to check your shoes.
What Are the Symptoms of Striped Bark Scorpion Stings?
Striped bark scorpion stings are venomous, but typically not life-threatening unless the victim goes into anaphylaxis. If you’re stung by a striped bark scorpion, you’ll typically experience sharp pain at the site of the sting, numbness, minor swelling in the area, and redness on the skin.
About 10% of stings also cause a tingling sensation described as feeling like an electric shock traveling up the affected arm or leg. The pain and tingling/numb sensation will be severe for about 2 hours, but symptoms will start to go away after 24 hours.
If you do experience more serious symptoms as a result of an allergic reaction, they’ll likely begin to present themselves within 2-3 hours. These symptoms include:
- Blurry or double vision
- Itchy nose and throat
- “Thick”-feeling tongue
- Spasms of the voice box (larynx)
- Irregular, increased, or decreased heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or a sudden stop in breathing
- Trouble swallowing
- Convulsions or seizures
- Random head and neck movements
- Inability to hold urine/stool or decreased amount of urine
Muscle spasms and jerky eye movements are typically the first serious symptoms to present themselves.
If someone you are with is stung by a striped bark scorpion, be sure to monitor them in case they present any of these more serious symptoms and require medical attention.
What to Do If Stung by a Striped Bark Scorpion
If you are stung by a striped bark scorpion (and have not yet exhibited the above serious symptoms), start by caring for the site of the sting at home.
Clean the area with soap and water, make an ice pack by wrapping ice in a clean cloth, and ice the sting in 10 minute intervals (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off—shorter intervals if you have blood circulation issues that might cause skin damage from the ice).
Be sure to keep the affected area still to prevent the scorpion venom from spreading throughout your body. Loosen tight clothing and remove jewelry like rings in case of swelling. If you’re able to swallow, take Benadryl or another antihistamine.
If you start experiencing serious symptoms, it’s best to call 911 and/or Poison Control ((800) 222-1222). Before calling, try to gather as much information as you can, including:
- Your age, weight, and condition
- The type of scorpion (if you know; take a photo if possible)
- The time and location of the sting
At the hospital, you may receive:
- A blood or urine test
- Breathing support
- A chest x-ray
- An ECG (echocardiogram to track heart rate and electrical activity)
- IV fluids
- Medicine to relieve symptoms and/or medicine to reverse the effects of the venom
Even if your scorpion bite is serious, your prognosis is optimistic. People over 6 years old, especially healthy adults, rarely die from scorpion stings. However, you are still at a small risk of death for a few weeks after the sting (if complications develop), and symptoms may persist for a few days. If your symptoms rapidly become worse within 2-4 hours after the sting, you are at greater risk.
Scorpion Problem? Consider Calling a Professional
If you’re a homeowner and suspect a scorpion infestation (scorpions often hide under floorboards and in dark, cool crevices), it’s best to call a professional pest control company.
Multiple scorpions in your home can be dangerous and scorpion control is best handled by a trained expert. If you notice more than one scorpion in your home, it’s better to be safe than sorry.