Protecting myself against scorpions
Frank Benes, MD, is the Emergency department medical director at Banner Baywood Medical Center in Mesa.
Question: I am new to the Valley and have heard several horror stories about scorpions. How can I protect my family from these pesky critters?
Answer: The Arizona desert attracts many people who love the outdoors. The warmth of the desert is not only enjoyable to us but attracts many of the creatures that inhabit this region. One of the common critters that may be encountered is the scorpion. Scorpions can sting or bite and cause serious medical problems when our paths cross. Like most desert animals, the scorpion is most active in the evenings of the hot summer months. That is when there is the highest chance of being stung.
There are more than 50 species of scorpions that live in Arizona and all of them can sting. Only one, the bark scorpion, can cause medical problems. Unfortunately, this is the most common scorpion found in this area. The bark scorpion is very small, typically one to one and a half inches in length and is a light tan color to a dark golden brown. It’s also the only scorpion in this area that can climb walls. It feeds at night on insects and can typically be found around:
- irrigated areas
- outside furniture
- wood piles
- the outside walls of your house
Many stings occur in the home, with the bedroom and living room being the most common places. Stings cause immediate pain with no swelling or redness. The area is usually very sensitive to touch. Over the first few hours, several symptoms can develop, such as:
- numbness and tingling of other areas of the body
- visual disturbances
- muscle twitching
- wild eye movements
- jerking body movements
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty breathing
Treatment for stings include:
- applying a cool compress
- elevating the extremity
- taking aspirin or Tylenol for the discomfort.
People who develop severe symptoms should seek medical attention at the nearest emergency department.