Can Scorpions Kill You? Can You Survive A Scorpion Sting?

Nidhi Sahai
Feb 20, 2023 By Nidhi Sahai
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Vikhaash Sundararaj
Flat Rock Scorpion, Hadogenes troglodytes, on a piece of tree bark
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.5 Min

Scorpions, the eight-leg predatory arachnids, close relatives of ticks, mites, and spiders, prefer dry habitats and they belong to the order Scorpiones.

Scorpions are distinguished by a pair of gripping pincers and a slender poisonous segmented tail carried in a forward curve across the back and terminating with a stinger. Scorpions are primarily desert-adapted creatures, although they have now evolved to a wide range of climatic conditions and may be found nearly anywhere on the planet, except Antarctica.

There are about 2500 species to date discovered by scientists but only 22 living species are recognized to date. Scorpions' main diet consists of insects, vertebrates, and invertebrates and uses pincers to sting. They eat mostly insects and other invertebrates.

They restrain and kill victims with their pincers. Scorpions are preyed upon by bigger creatures. The poisonous sting can be used to both kill and defend victims. This stinger is active both during daylight and night.

They can hide in shoes, mostly when you visit a desert-type area. Antivenom can control the serious reactions which might have turned severe. The scorpion sting is more severe than a bee, and the symptoms can be more serious than a bee sting.

Scorpion species do not present a threat to humans except some which are deadliest, like the Indian red scorpion found in India and the Deathstalker scorpion of Africa.

Also another species of scorpions, the Bark scorpions, found in the deserts of the United States of America and deserts of Mexico, are deadly. This scorpion's stings can be fatal.

Bark scorpions (Centruroides excilicauda) are venomous and deadly and if proper medical attention is not given to the victim, it can be fatal but most stings did not turn fatal if the victim seeks medical attention.

There may be some pain, swelling, and long-term nerve damage. Only approximately 22 of the estimated 2,500 scorpion species worldwide generate venom that is poisonous enough to be deadly.

Every year, around a million scorpion stings, occur, and deaths from these stings are substantial due to a lack of adequate medical treatment and health care centers; the mortality rate is high in Asian and Latin American countries.

Got an interest in insects? You can also read about are earwigs dangerous and are praying mantis dangerous.

Do scorpions attack humans?

Some of the species of scorpions are actually deadly to healthy adults or humans and most species are harmless to humans unless a person is reactive to an allergic reaction to scorpion venom. Scorpions' natural instincts are to flee the spot unless they are faced with a threat.

Only the Brazilian yellow scorpion is known for its venomous sting that can cause death to children. Scorpions are not violent by nature.

They like to stay away from any disturbances or any human involvement.

But they don't realize that people coming to beaches is not harmful to them, and hence they get stunned or feel threatened by the presence of people and sometimes attack them in their defense. It is very rare that a scorpion will show violent behavior or will attack humans first.

Normally no species of scorpions attack humans unless they face a threat. By nature, scorpions are shy and only sting humans if they feel threatened.

But scorpions probably don't sting humans in hopes of enjoying a feast. Scorpion sting is their best defense against getting attacked or getting crushed.

Scorpions are nocturnal and during the day they rest in dark spaces like under woodpiles, burrows, rocks, or other small. Out of around 70 species of scorpions who live in the United States, only one, the Bark Scorpion, is potentially dangerous and fatal to humans.

Scorpions are arachnids, they are close relatives of ticks, mites, and spiders and generally prefer dry habitats but can be found throughout, especially bark scorpions. Scorpions can be a nuisance when they interact with humans.

What does scorpion venom do to humans?

Some common symptoms when a scorpion stings are swelling, numbness, difficulty breathing, allergic reaction, blurry vision, burning at the sting site, tingling, pain, seizures, and in some rare cases pancreatitis, which is a painful inflammation of the pancreas, and you cannot control them unless good medical assistance is taken. Chlorotoxin prevents muscles from getting the chemical signals.

If stung, this toxin can paralyze or kill its victim and proper medical attention should be given immediately by either calling a doctor or admitting to the hospital.

The majority of these potentially lethal scorpions are incapable of killing healthy adults, but their neurotoxins can cause troubling symptoms such as convulsions and shortness of breath. Infants and the elderly are most at the risk of dying once stung.

A few scorpions such as the Death Stalker of North and Southwest Africa are potent enough to kill even a healthy adult.

Even a tiny, sandy-colored scorpion with two narrow pincers and a curled tail can be fatal because the sting from its tail can carry enough venom to induce severe responses in humans. The venom of the bark scorpion (Centruroides excilicauda) includes neurotoxins that target the neurological system and activate pain receptors and cause burning.

Are small scorpions more poisonous?

People have a very usual belief that scorpions that are small tend to be more poisonous than the big ones. While the length of a scorpion might be a factor in the amount of damage it may give, small scorpions may not be poisonous. Scorpions sting so that they can inject the toxins, these scorpions are very venomous. 

It is a myth that smaller scorpions are more poisonous and are deadly and aggressive. Scorpions prefer to sting small prey, and not humans, rather they are run when they see humans. Smaller scorpions sting more frequently because until now they have not learned to control their impulse to attack and that is perfectly a more natural reason.

Large scorpions have pinchers that are more powerful than smaller scorpions and the reason they can pinch their prey is to disable it and not sting. Smaller scorpions on the other hand don’t have such luck they pinch first and sting shortly after in most cases.

It is believed they can use one of two types of venom, one that kills and one that disables.

Emperor scorpion on a log

What are the symptoms of a scorpion bite?

Some of the most common symptoms are difficulty in breathing, nausea and vomiting, sweating, unusual neck, head, and eye movements, drooling, accelerated heart rate, and high blood pressure. Get immediate medical attention or see a doctor if a child gets stung by a scorpion.

Some common symptoms when a scorpion stings are swelling, numbness, difficulty in breathing, allergic reaction, blurry vision, burning at the sting site, tingling, pain, seizures, and in some rare cases pancreatitis, which is painful inflammation of the pancreas may occur which is dangerous and can be deadly, especially in children.

Some of the scorpions deliver very dangerous venom when they sting called chlorotoxin, a very potent venom.

Chlorotoxin is responsible for the prevention of the muscles from understanding the chemical signals, which they require to move. This toxin can even paralyze the victim when stung, sometimes can even kill, and hence proper medical attention should be given immediately by either calling a doctor or admit to the hospital in this case.

Only around 25 of the 1,500 known scorpion species are capable of stinging humans, which can be lethal.

Sometimes a dose of antivenom is given if the sting is deadly.

How long does scorpion venom last?

Pain at the sting area usually ends in 24 hours. Also the shock waves of tingling end in 24 hours.

But the numbness and tingling around the sting area may last two to three days.

Many species of a scorpion have a curved brown tail of small length, which can give deadly reactions to anybody who has got stung by it, but few desert scorpions don't have that fatal tail, which when stings can leave children or adults dead or in a serious condition.

When stung by a scorpion, you cannot control the pain the toxin causes, but a human can bear the pain when a scorpion stings if given good medical assistance immediately.

Scorpion stings are painful but rarely life-threatening. Young children, infants, and older people are most at risk because the sting is venomous and not poisonous.

A brown scorpion's sting can be severe and lethal and the victim can get into a serious condition if immediate medical help will not get provided. Sometimes a person can even die as that happens in most parts of Africa where primary health services are not up to mark.

Scorpions have also appeared in lots of arts, mythology, folklore, and brands.

Treating And Preventing Scorpion Stings

The sting of a scorpion is not all the time life-threatening, but for children, it can be very bad. The body mass and venom ratio are quite low and that's why the reactions can be quite severe.

Children spend much of their time outside, so they are more likely to be stung by scorpions.

They don't recognize them as a threat and just ignore them even if they encounter them. You can also call the pediatrician of your child to take some more advice in situations like these, after getting the medical attention needed at that time.

If a scorpion stings you, immediately clean the wound with mild soap and water. And then apply a cool and clean cloth to the affected area, this will helo a lot in reducing pain.

Don't consume any liquids or food if you feel that you are having difficulty swallowing. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. If a child or infant or elderly person is stung and the symptoms are severe seek medical attention or a doctor for further treatment.

A scorpions venom is very expensive and can cost up to $6,000 - $9,000/gram. The venom of the scorpion can be called one of the most expensive fluids available in the world and is used to make antivenom medicines.

This stinger is active both during daylight and night. Often in dark, scorpions hide inside the shoes (if close to some human settlement) and stay there for hours unless getting disturbed.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for can scorpions kill you, then why not take a look at are silverfish dangerous or scorpion facts?

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Written by Nidhi Sahai

Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Nidhi Sahai picture

Nidhi SahaiBachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Dedicated and experienced, Nidhi is a professional content writer with a strong reputation for delivering high-quality work. She has contributed her expertise to esteemed organizations, including Network 18 Media and Investment Ltd. Driven by her insatiable curiosity and love for journalism and mass communication, Nidhi pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, graduating with distinction in 2021. During her college years, she discovered her passion for Video Journalism, showcasing her skills as a videographer for her institution. Nidhi's commitment to making a positive impact extends beyond her professional pursuits. Actively engaging in volunteer work, she has contributed to various events and initiatives throughout her academic career.

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Fact-checked by Vikhaash Sundararaj

Bachelor of Fine Arts specializing in International Business

Vikhaash Sundararaj picture

Vikhaash SundararajBachelor of Fine Arts specializing in International Business

With a background in International Business Management, having completed his degree at the University of Hull. Vikhaash has volunteered with 'Teach For India' to help students create a monthly newsletter. In his free time, he enjoys sports and was the assistant captain of his school's hockey team. He has also gained marketing experience through an internship at Decathlon Sports India.

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