Scorpions are found all over South Africa, but they are more common at our game lodges and bushveld camping sites where we go for weekend getaways and holiday breaks. We should remember that scorpions only sting humans to defend themselves, we are not their prey, so if you find them in your space, remove them gently with a broom or soft branch to the outdoors where they can fulfill their normal function in the eco system.
A way of identifying the potency of a scorpion’s venom is to look at the size of their pincers. The scorpion with the big sized pincers are not as venomous as the ones with the small pincers. Most scorpions have neurotoxic venom which affects the persons nervous system, but there are a few with cytotoxic venom which affects the body tissue and cells.
Some considering factors are the severity of the sting, the type of scorpion species, how much venom was injected, where on the body the victim was stung, the general health of the victim whether the victim has heart or respiratory problems like asthma.
Signs & Symptoms of a Scorpion Sting
Some or all symptoms may develop depending on the severity of the envenomation.
Symptoms may take from 30 minutes to 24 hours to develop, increasing in severity as time goes on.
Intense burning pain at the sting site with mild inflammation.
Burning sensation with pins and needles in the face, scalp, hands and feet.
Abnormal pulse rate, either very high 100-150 bpm, or very low 30-55 bpm.
Raised blood pressure in some patients.
Lack of muscle coordination, involuntary movements, tremors and muscle weakness.
Slurred speech with difficulty in swallowing.
Headache, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Breathing difficulty is always a problem in any scorpion envenomation.
First Aid Do’s and Don’ts
Apply an ice pack to the sting site to relieve the burning sensation.
Constantly monitor the breathing and heart rate of the patient and assist when needed.
Keep the patient calm and reassured as this keeps the psychological effect on the heart rate in check.
Clean the wound with mild soap and water and keep the affected limb immobilized by splinting it.
Get the patient to the hospital where they will give a anti-venom or treat the symptoms as they develop. Some people are very allergic to scorpion anti-venom.
Do not drink alcohol for the pain, it will only mask the symptoms and when the alcohol wears off the pain will be more intense.
Do not use tourniquets or ointments or incisions to suck out the venom.
Scorpions are a part of our exquisite African nature and must be treated with respect. They should not be killed unnecessarily because they have a very important role to play in our eco system. Prevent accidental stings by checking your sleeping bag before going to bed, wearing appropriate shoes when walking in the bush and just generally be aware of their presence in nature.