A scorpion is part of the arachnid family, which also includes mites, ticks, and spiders. Scorpions are about 3 inches long (about the length of a crayon), with eight legs and a small pair of claws that look like crabs' claws. A scorpion's stinger is at the end of its long tail.
There are more than 1,000 species of scorpions all over the world, and at least 70 species are found in the United States, mostly in the southwestern states and Florida. Of these species, only one type of scorpion, which usually lives in Arizona, New Mexico, and other southwestern states, can kill people.
Scorpions like to live in cool, damp places like basements, woodpiles, and junk piles. Usually, they're nocturnal (they sleep during the day and come out at night) and more active when it rains.
If a person gets stung by a scorpion, the area of the sting will hurt and may get swollen or red, depending on the type of scorpion. More severe reactions from the venom (poison) involving other parts of the body also can occur.
If you ever think you've been stung by a scorpion, tell an adult immediately. With an adult's help, put an ice pack on the sting to keep down swelling.
Because it's hard to tell a dangerous scorpion from one that is harmless, all scorpion stings must be treated by a doctor. Capture the scorpion for identification if it is possible to do so safely, and bring it with you to the doctor. Knowing the type of scorpion that caused the bite may make treatment easier.
Doctors treat someone stung by a scorpion with medications, if needed, that help take pain away and control the body's reactions to the venom. They may give a medicine (called antivenin) that fights the scorpion's venom to someone who doesn't get better with the other medications.
The best way to avoid getting stung by scorpions is to avoid the places where they like to spend time. Don't play in junk piles or woodpiles, and if you are working outside with big piles of logs, wear gloves. If you live in the American Southwest and keep your shoes in a garage, basement, or mudroom, shake them out carefully before putting them on.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: April 2013
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