Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Real time protocol of a scorpion sting

Today's not my day. Among the things that went wrong were the broken dog fence (Randy's problem but I feel for him), a Prairie Falcon that sent me racing for binoculars and then took off just as I got them, and then I got nailed by something.
I had let some black cloth dry over night on the wall along the driveway. When I picked it up I first thought it had given me and electric shock. It's often so dry here that static accumulates and one can get hit quite unpleasantly by those discharges. But this was way to strong a sensation and then also began to hurt a little like a bee sting. Since it was on my finger, my first reaction was to try and suck out whatever had been injected.

 Hoffmannius confusus (Stahnke 1940)
By then I knew that I hadn't felt anything quite like this before, so I began to carefully search the cloth. Sure enough, a scorpion was still hiding among the folds. Good that I brought my camera to shoot the falcon: now I took some booking portraits of my assailant.  He actually got away because I had no container. Next I posted the photos to the fb page of my friend and scorpion authority Warren Savary. If it turns out to be a scorpion sp. with a deadly poison - there aren't any described for Arizona, so it would be new to science - at least there will be proper documentation.
The pain is completely gone by now, but I can't quite decide whether my left hand is tingling or numb. Maybe both. All over I'm feeling a little shaky and like a migraine is coming on.
My lips and tongue are feeling like I'd be getting over local anesthesia from a dental appointment (good reminder - get a check-up before the art season starts and I get too busy!) And of course now I don't know whether this is a systemic reaction or if I brought that upon myself by sucking the stuff out.

But now, after half an hour, the tingling numbness has reached my right hand, so I'd say it is systemic. I'm slightly nauseated and beginning to sweat but my heart rate is a normal resting 78 per minute. The initial adrenalin boost has definitely worn off by now.
45 minutes after the sting I'm feeling quite normal again, only my lower lip is still numb. But then  Randy wants me to read some very garbled text that he has to edit. It's written by a not-English-speaking scientist (no me!) in English, and after reading I go right back to feeling confused, disoriented and nauseated. But I don't think the scorpion has anything to do with it. Poor Randy. He'll spend all day with those 30 pages.
I have to admit, 2 h after the sting I now have a slight headache an hot flashes. Hm. Need a control experiment volunteer (a group, actually) and better air conditioning.  
I took an aspirin and a half hour nap and woke up feeling completely normal.  
Warren identified the scorpion as one of our larger, most harmless species Hoffmannius confusus.


  1. Should you go to the ER? Just to be sure?

  2. Nope, I'm just fine. I hope I'll never have to see an ER from the inside

  3. Okey dokey! I have had my share of run ins with scorpions in Florida. The big black ones. Luckily I was never been stung but came within inches of it more than once. No insect freaks me out more.

  4. What did Warren have to say about your attacker? It al sounds very scary to me and I hope there will be no residuals. What a story!

  5. Very impressed with your stoic attitude Margarethe - more interest than fear! Very exciting that you may have discovered a new beastie. Any chance of naming it after you???

  6. Centuroides scorpions are unusual in that they are the only genus in the southwest that can climb walls, trees, and other objects with a sufficiently rough surface. Bark scorpions practice negative geotaxis, preferring an upside down orientation, which often results in people being stung due to the scorpion being on the underside of an object.[5]end quote

  7. We have a number of climbers here. Warren thinks the this one is Hoffmannius confusus (Stahnke 1940)

  8. You seriously tried to "suck out the poison" -- ? Seems ineffective at best, ill-advised at worst (increasing the risk of a systemic reaction).

    For anyone who is bit or stung by something, please phone the Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. They take tons of calls and are staffed by experts who will walk you through a series of questions to figure out what got you, and whether you should do something about it.

  9. May I say that I survived just fine, thank you - monitored my life signs, am a physiologist, knew that only a minuscule amount of poison (much less than a bee sting) had been transferred. I didn't consciously decide to suck out poison but found myself doing it reflectively. I knew exactly what got me and also that there is no danger for a healthy adult from an Arizona scorpion sting. I hope my readers got the tongue-in-cheek tone of my writing

  10. Wow, interesting timing - I was stung by a scorpion very similar to yours (no photo, sadly - I released it next door before realizing that a pic would have been a good idea) but with a darker tail... it was Wednesday morning and I was picking up the towel under our dogs' water bowl when I thought I'd grabbed one of the nasty bur-seed-things in the towel... nope. Tip of middle finger throbbed while I took the towel outside to release the critter - then I texted my entomology prof to ask about what I should do: he suggested ice, Benadryl, and supervision. His wife suggested a baking powder/water paste, a former zoo coworker suggested applying heat and just drinking a lot of water... I did the paste and Benadryl and within 2 hrs the throbbing (very similar to a bee sting) had gone away, replaced with a slight tenderness. By the following morning, I wouldn't have even known anything had happened. Still a very slight visible redness at the site of the sting though.

  11. Interesting that you had more local pain and less systemic reaction than I (it probably was a different sp of scorpion, but: I took a lady on a tour lately who is a veterinarian and she brought a suction kit for snake bites along. She was bitten, or rather stung, by a harvester ant. She applied suction right away. While she still found the sting extremely painful, it was over within 20 min, while I usually suffer from Pogo stings for days. So suction may be good to prevent local effects, just don't do it with your mouth. And you have to do it immediately.