Ahwatukee Foothills residents enjoy picturesque mountain views and friendly neighbors, but unfortunately living so close to South Mountain also comes with creepy crawly neighbors in the form of scorpions.
There are more than 30 different kinds of scorpions in Arizona, and the most deadly scorpion, called the bark scorpion, is one of the most common types found in Arizona households.
Dr. Joshua Zeidler, who works at Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert medical centers, said he sees more scorpion stings in the emergency room from Ahwatukee Foothills residents than other surrounding areas.
“I think the scorpions like to live in the mountains, and with all of the building and construction in Ahwatukee Foothills the scorpions are displaced from their homes,” Zeidler said.
While most adults experience mild numbness, tingling and burning after a scorpion sting, the elderly and children are more at risk for serious reactions to scorpion stings.
“It really depends on how much venom you get in you and how much that is in relation to your size, which is why children and the elderly have more trouble,” Zeidler said.
Bad reactions to scorpion stings are also more common when people are stung by bark scorpions. Common symptoms after being stung by a bark scorpion include severe pain, difficulty swallowing and seeing other central nervous system effects.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Norma Leslie was recently stung by a bark scorpion. When Leslie started experiencing more severe symptoms than those from a regular scorpion sting, she felt that she needed to go to the hospital.
“When I called the paramedics they were more concerned with my high level of pain than my other symptoms, which I later found out were the symptoms of being stung by a bark scorpion,” she said. “Instead of taking me to the emergency room they told me to stay home where I would be more comfortable.”
Leslie then contacted Poison Control for a second opinion, and was encouraged to go to the emergency room immediately.
“The people at Chandler Regional immediately knew what was going on with me when I arrived,” she said.
Upon arrival Leslie was given a dose of scorpion sting antivenom called Anascorp, which quickly alleviated her symptoms.
Anascorp is still an investigative drug awaiting FDA approval, but Chandler Regional has experienced great success with the drug.
“It’s a research drug, so you have to explain the risks and benefits to a patient and get their consent before it can be used,” Zeidler said. “It’s been very effective with our experience.”
When a patient with a scorpion sting arrives to Chandler Regional and consents to Anascorp, after a dose or two symptoms begin to quickly alleviate.
“Basically, after a couple doses the symptoms go away completely and there is significant improvement within an hour,” Zeidler said. “Without the antivenom people would be admitted to the hospital for one or two days.”
Anascorp, which remains in its clinical stage, is sponsored by the University of Arizona. It is used at various hospitals throughout the Valley, including Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert.
Zeidler also encourages people to remember that insecticides alone will not eliminate scorpions from homes. The Arizona Poison Control Center and the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences suggest the following precautions residents can take to secure their home:
• Remove wood piles against your home.
• Keep trash cans raised or on concrete slabs.
• Keep grass trimmed short.
• Make sure all windows have tight-fitting screens.
• Caulk and seal all openings to the house.
• Eliminate scorpion food sources, such as crickets, and talk to a pest control service for recommendations on how to deter scorpions.
• Wear shoes when walking outside, especially at night.
• Shake out shoes and clothing before putting them on.
For more information about what to do when stung by a scorpion, visit the American Association of Poison Control Centers Web site at www.aapcc.org or call 1-800-222-1222.