Wait! Stop! Don’t scroll past this post because of the creepy crawly critter in the picture! Anyone with a child (grandchild, takes care of a child, knows a child) this is a MUST read!
Living in AZ, I’ve squashed scorpions like spiders-they never really scared me- until I had kids. My toddler, Hunter, was stung by a scorpion. It happened the ONE night I was in the hospital after I gave birth to Duke. (It was the ONE night I’ve ever been away and the ONE night my hubby was in charge … that’s a rant for another time.) Luckily, the hubs did everything exactly right and thank God Hunter didn’t have a reaction. The whole ordeal got me thinking- would I know what to do? My knee jerk reaction is head to the ER. I asked my sister, my mom friends, and my co-workers, ends up… everyone had a different answer of what they THINK they should do. So, I went to the experts. I reached out to Poison Control (did you know there are two poison control centers in AZ?) The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center in Tucson covers all counties except Maricopa, and the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix covers Maricopa County. Both work very closely together and under one phone number. They provide 24 hour service every day of the week.
Here is the number: 1-800-222-1222.
I also talked with an ER doctor who works at Honor Health Scottsdale Shea, Osborn, and Thompson Peak’s Medical centers to get the protocol on what to expect if you do have to go to the ER. (HUGE shout out to EVERYone that helped me! I am beyond thankful for your time and expertise!)
The standard symptoms of a sting are pain with radiating numbness- you probably won’t see a puncture wound, so you may not even know the child was stung-unless someone saw it. The numbness starts at the sting site, spreads throughout the body, but recedes back to the sting site before going away. This numbness could last minutes or weeks. If there is vomiting, jerky body movements (looks like a seizure) drooling, closed eyes, slurred speech- head straight to the ER (or call 911). This can also be described as looking “possessed.” (When my husband called Poison Control, this was one of the signs they said to look for- for me this was something I’ve NEVER heard of, and prompted me to start writing this post.) Other signs of a reaction include, arching of the back, thrashing, not focusing, not responding to prompts and possibly foaming at the mouth. FYI, ambulances and Urgent Care DO NOT stock the antivenom. (When my husband called, they told him if there was a sign of these reactions, to call for an ambulance because there was no way he would get Hunter restrained in a car seat.)
If you suspect a sting but don’t see a reaction- Poison Control will walk you through these questions:
Describe the symptoms the child is having, what is the age of the child, how long ago was the sting, did anyone see the scorpion, can you get a picture of the scorpion (there are 40 species in AZ but the Bark Scorpion is the only one considered medically important), location of the sting, location in the home (or elsewhere) where the child was stung, what is your nearest hospital?
If a trip to the ER is NOT necessary, expect pain and numbness to go away on its own. Poison Control will tell you to use a cool compress and maybe some over the counter meds. After six hours the odds of more symptoms to develop is rare. Poison Control will also call you back several times to check in.
Let’s talk worst case scenario. Your child is at the emergency room with a reaction.
Nurses will immediately start an IV with sedating meds and pain meds to help reduce the symptoms. While this is happening, the pharmacy will be mixing up the antivenom. Once that’s ready it will be administrated over a time frame of 15 minutes to an hour (there is no age minimum for the anitvenom.) By an hour, the child’s symptoms should be better. At this point, children become sleepy and often take a nap, that’s because of all the energy they just spent stressing and the medications. In rare cases, if the child has an extreme reaction with frothing at the mouth and they are not able to breathe, doctors will put in a breathing tube. If this does happen, once the antivenom has been given and the child returns to normal, doctors will take the tube out. This would be a rare case that could require an overnight stay.
My hope is that you are armed with the knowledge and prepared with the procedures BUT never have to use them. To put your mind a little bit at ease, Poison Control reports in the whole state there were about 12,000 people who called with sting last year and of that, only about 250 needed medical attention.