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Posted Jul 6, 2011, 1:52 pm
Summer in Southern Arizona means things shake and buzz. From monsoon clouds with their thunder and lightning, to rattlesnake tails, nature can reach out and grab you.
But there's another, more silent sting that awaits the unwary: summer heat also brings out Arizona's scorpions.
Over 1,000 scorpion stings have been recorded so far this year by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, which serves the entire state outside Maricopa County.
"We've have more than 280 stings in June alone, and nearly 700 since April 1, when 'sting season' unofficially begins," said Dr. Keith Boesen, managing director of the poison center, in a press release.
In 2010, the center—part of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy—recorded 2,535 stings.
While scorpion stings are not always serious and usually do not need any special medical attention, they often cause a tremendous amount of pain. Some scorpion stings do cause life-threatening reactions.
The effects of a scorpion sting can vary from a couple of minutes to a couple of days. Numbness, another effect from a sting, can also last a number of hours to several days.
A serious scorpion sting can cause drooling, uncontrollable eye movements, uncontrollable jerking and difficulty breathing, because the central nervous system is affected, said Dr. Mazda Shirazi, medical director of the poison center, in the release.
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"Severe symptoms are a result of the scorpion's venom really disrupting the person's nervous system," said Shirazi. "Although we have not had a reported death from a scorpion sting in many years, some stings can be life-threatening."
While adults sometimes require emergency medical attention, young children are the most at risk of severe reactions to scorpion stings, Shirazi said.
Scorpion antivenom now available in Arizona has had positive results through five years of testing, Shirazi said.
The antivemom "can save hours and even days of hospitalization for both children and adults, countering the severe effects of the sting very quickly."
The center advised that those stung should call 1-800-222-1222 and tell the poison specialists about their symptoms. The center offers free, confidential information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
To lessen the effects of a non-serious scorpion sting, Boesen suggested washing the site of the sting, taking pain killers such as aspirin or Tylenol and applying a cool compress or ice pack to the area.
Because scorpion stings can cause numbness, using an ice pack for up to 10 minutes can be effective, Boesen said. Leaving an ice pack on the area for longer than 10 minutes may cause your skin to freeze, and the lack of feeling caused by the sting can make that more likely.
Don't use ice if it causes pain, Boesen said.