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What should I do if I get stung by a scorpion?

Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine

If you or a friend or family member gets stung by a scorpion, don't panic! Most of the time, a scorpion sting is like a bee sting -- pain, burning, mild swelling, and maybe numbness locally, that will resolve fairly quickly.
Some scorpions can cause worse reactions than others. For example, scorpions in Texas are not severely poisonous. If you live in New Mexico or Arizona, however, watch out for the dreaded bark scorpion, which can cause more serious reactions such as severe swelling, shortness of breath, shock, and even death. If you are stung and your symptoms rapidly escalate, go directly to an emergency room.


For the majority of stings, first aid will do. Wash the area immediately with soap and water. Ice and elevate the area if possible. Remove any rings, bracelets, watches or other constrictive accessories.
If you are starting to swell up, take a diphenhydramine (Benadryl) tablet or capsule. Topical steroid wont hurt and might help a bit. Ice the area for about 10 minutes.


A nonscientifically proven, but much recommended, home remedy is to very quickly apply a paste of meat tenderizer (with papaya extract) and a bit of water directly onto the area that was stung. This seems to alleviate the pain more rapidly, and at worst case, it is not harmful.
Finally, check the date of your last tetanus shot. If it was more than seven years ago, go get a new one.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.