Seeing as I was lucky enough to be stung by a scorpion last saturday I though I would share this with the rest of you- seeing as we all prance around outside in the wild....
Stay away from the thick tails (and the thin tails will hurt too)...
Scorpions often live under rocks.
Scorpions with big tails and small pincers have more toxic venom. In South Africa, scorpion stings are not usually fatal. Immersing the sting in hot water denatures the venom, so will help with pain if you do not have anti-inflammatories.
The term scorpionism is the medical term used to describe the syndrome of scorpion stings. We focus here on the thick-tailed scorpions in the family Buthidae, which are the most dangerous scorpions in South Africa (See Dangerous scorpions: how to identify them). Find out here about how to prevent being stung, the signs and symptoms of scorpionism, and scorpionism management.
In South Africa we are fortunate to have a fascinating and diverse scorpion fauna and yet a low incidence of scorpionism, unlike areas in the south-western U.S.A., Mexico, east-central South America, north Africa, the Middle East and India where the incidence of serious scorpion envenomation is high.
Worldwide, there are about 100,000 cases of scorpion envenomation resulting in approximately 800 deaths per year. Locally more than 95% of cases of scorpionism results in no more than local pain lasting from several minutes to about 4 hours with most of the Ischnurid stings resulting in no more than a pin prick. In South Africa there are only 1 to 4 deaths a year resulting from
Parabuthus envenomation (nothing in comparison to car, crime, sport or health related deaths).
A Case Study in the Cape
A case study of 42 serious scorpion envenomations, occurring in western Cape over 5 summers (1986/7 to 1991/2), recorded 4 fatalities of children. Parabuthus granulatus was found to be the main culprit, responsible for 3 deaths. Parabuthus capensis was the alleged culprit of the fourth death but as the specimen was lost it cannot be verified. Parabuthus transvaalicus is the major cause of serious scorpion envenomation in Zimbabwe with recorded cases of death. Parabuthus mossambicensis has also been implicated in cases of serious envenomation.
All Parabuthus and especially P. kalaharicus, P. schlechteri and P. villosus must be regarded as potentially lethal.
The reason for the high number of envenomations by Parabuthus granulatus is probably due to its habit of actively foraging unlike most scorpions' sedentary ambush strategy.
When do most stings occur in Southern Africa?
October to March is the period when most stings occur, with a peak in January / February, with about 75% of stings occurring at night. The victims are usually stung on the foot due to open footwear or no footwear. Scorpions are a greater problem in the north-western Cape than snakes.
What is their venom and what part of our bodies does it affect?
All scorpions posses a neurotoxic venom that affects the central nervous system but there are some exotic species with cytotoxic venom. Less than 5% of stings result in signs and symptoms requiring medical attention. The non-Buthidae families normally result in no more than a mild to intense pain at the sting site with possible mild local inflammation (swelling and redness). The family Ischnuridae with its thin tail and small stinger can hardly penetrate the skin although some of the larger species can execute a mild to painful sting.
Scorpions, as with spiders and snakes, voluntarily deliver venom that is expelled by 2 muscles surrounding the venom gland in the vesicle. Sometimes, the animal can deliver a dry sting and the victim, due to sheer hysteria, can show false signs and symptoms. The depth of the sting will also determine the severity of the envenomation as will the health and size of the victim. The effects of a sting can be reduced if delivered into a bony area or thick clothing can prevent venom entering soft tissue below the skin. A deep sting into a fleshy area will result in more severe symptoms.
Are they good pets?
Scorpions, like spiders and snakes, do not make good pets and invariably succumb to neglect. The scorpion becomes stressed with continual handling and prodding and may end up stinging its keeper when he picks it up to impress his friends. If they are to be kept, only those who know and understand them should keep them.
How to prevent being stung by a scorpion:
1. Wear protective footwear especially at night.
2. Exercise caution when lifting rocks, logs and when collecting firewood.
3. Do not handle scorpions with bare hands.
4. When camping try not to sleep directly on the ground.
5. Shake out footwear, clothing and bedding to expel unwanted creepy crawlies.
6. Learn how to distinguish a highly venomous scorpion from a harmless one and the area they occur in.
Signs and symptoms of scorpionism
The severity of envenomation depends on various factors such as the health and age of the victim, the sting site and species, size and degree of agitation of the scorpion. A person with heart or respiratory problems will be at greater risk.
Some or all of the following sings and symptoms may result:
1. Immediate and intense, burning pain at the sting site that lasts about 30 minutes. Mild inflammation may be present, with the sting mark not always visible.
2. Signs and symptoms only develop after 30 minutes and sometimes only after 4 to 12 hours, increasing in severity over the following 24 hours. The pain can be local as well as distal with abdominal cramps.
3. Paraesthesia, an abnormal sensitivity, includes a burning sensation and pins and needles usually in the hands, feet, face and scalp.
4. Hyperaesthesia, an excessive sensitivity of the skin to clothing and bedding with the patient even sensitive to noise.
5. Ataxia, a lack of muscle coordination with a stiff legged or drunken walking action. Involuntary movements, tremors and muscle weakness.
6. Tachycardia, an increased pulse rate of 100 to 150 bpm for Parabuthus granulatus and below 55 bpm for Parabuthus transvaalicus.
7. Raised blood pressure in Parabuthus granulatus. Normal in children but raised in some adults in Parabuthus transvaalicus cases.
8. Dysphagia, a difficulty in swallowing especially with Parabuthus transvaalicus and excessive salivation.
9. Dysarthia, a speech difficulty.
10. Excessive perspiration in Parabuthus transvaalicus cases.
11. Headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
12. Ptosis, patient has droopy eyelids.
13. Restlessness and anxiety is a prominent feature seen in children with Parabuthus granulatus. Hyperactivity and infants crying for unexplained reason.
14. Urine retention.
15. Respiratory distress is a major complication and can result in death.