Diagnosis

Your history and symptoms are usually all your doctor needs to make a diagnosis. If you have severe symptoms, you may have blood or imaging tests to check for the effects of the venom on your liver, heart, lungs and other organs.

Treatment

Most scorpion stings don't need medical treatment. But if symptoms are severe, you may need to receive care in a hospital. You may be given sedatives for muscle spasms and drugs through a vein (intravenously) to treat high blood pressure, agitation and pain.

The use of scorpion antivenom remains controversial because of concerns about effectiveness, side effects (more of a concern with older, less purified formulations), cost and access to care. Antivenom is most effective if given before symptoms develop, so children seen in remote rural emergency rooms, where access to medical centers and intensive care units is limited, are often treated with antivenom as a precaution. Also, if you have more-severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend the antivenom.

Your treatment will also depend on whether your doctor determines that your signs and symptoms are due to an allergic reaction rather than the effects of the venom.

Lifestyle and home remedies

If a scorpion stings you or your child, follow the suggestions below. Healthy adults may not need further treatment, and these tips can help keep children safe until they see a doctor:

  • Clean the wound with mild soap and water.
  • Apply a cool compress to the affected area for 10 minutes. Remove it for 10 minutes, then reapply it. This helps reduce pain and slow the venom's spread. This is most effective in the first two hours after a sting occurs.
  • Don't consume food or liquids if you're having difficulty swallowing.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever as needed. You might try ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Children's Motrin, others) to help ease discomfort.

Check your or your child's immunization records to be sure a tetanus vaccine is up to date.

Transcript

Visiting the desert southwest can be a beautiful and wonderful experience. But some dangers may be lurking. The western diamondback rattlesnake is one of the creatures visitors should be on the lookout for.

"The most important thing to do is to avoid the rattlesnake."

Dr. Steven Maher, an emergency department physician, explains what you should do if you are bitten.

"The most important thing is what not to do. You don't want to try and suck out the venom, or try and cut. The best thing to do is try and immobilize the area, and seek medical treatment right away."

A creature to look out for is the scorpion. Each person reacts differently to the sting, and symptoms can vary from severe pain to blurred vision.

"If you're concerned at all, talk to your local poison center. And if symptoms are severe, get help right away."

But the greatest danger is not an animal or bugs, but lack of water. Stay hydrated. Dr. Maher suggests hiking early in the morning and bringing plenty of water when exploring.

"If you're going to be outside, it's very important to bring water with you and a lot of it."

July 27, 2018
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