Recently we had an event happen in our family that really got me thinking about emergencies and obtaining proper knowledge and training in advance. Thank goodness it was a minor event, but still a very unpleasant one.
While at the park with some friends having a picnic and socializing while the kids played on the slides, monkey bars and swings, my wife was introduced to the bark scorpion. She was sitting at the picnic table when all of a sudden she felt a sensation like a needle being jabbed into her hand. She looked down and a bark scorpion was sitting on her lap and had just stung her. She let out a scream and jumped up while another girl "recycled" the culprit into an unrecognizable wet spot the sidewalk. Immediately she ran to me to find out what to do. I considered what I had learned about the sting, knowing there was nothing you could do other than some simple remedies to ease the pain and unavoidable discomfort that would soon be coming.
We quickly packed up our things and gathered the kids together to hurry home before it got worse. By the time we took the 5 minute drive home and got into the house the pain had already gone up her arm in throbbing pain and her mouth, lips and tongue were going numb. I remember hearing the Benadryl and Advil were the best things to take so that's what she got. And we also got an ice pack to put on her hand. It was a constant pain that seemed to become excruciating at times, almost like labor pains. It would become overwhelming for a little bit then taper off for a bit, then come back, then taper off, etc.
Soon her vision started going blurry and her legs and feet were tingling. Then when she felt like her throat was closing up I called the hospital who then referred us to Poison Control. They asked us a bunch of questions and then told us that some of the things we were doing were either harmful or didn't do anything to help. For instance, Benadryl does nothing for scorpion stings except for those very rare instances when a person is allergic, which is extremely rare. Scorpion venom is neurological and never enters the blood stream. Instead, it attacks the nerves in the body. So unlike bee stings, it really did nothing for her except relax her a little bit.
Second of all was regarding the ice pack. Although ice can make it feel better in the short term, it was the cause of the throbbing, overwhelming pain episodes she was experiencing. Instead, the doctor said we should be using cool water on a washcloth over the sting. And as the washcloth warmed up, cool it down and apply it at the sting area again. Making this transition was extremely painful as the ice had numbed it a little but also caused some pain when her hand thawed out. But after a few minutes, it started to settle down. The pain was still there, but the "labor pain-like" attacks were lessening.
We did do something right though. Advil is a good thing to take. It doesn't really do very much for the pain, but every little bit helps.
They also told us that her throat was not closing up. It was numb, which gave the scary sensation of closing up. This was good to know and helped her calm down a little, which is difficult to do when you feel like your airway is closing up. Oxygen is mildly important in staying alive, so we're told.
We also learned that there are 4 levels of severity to scorpion stings, depending on the person and the amount of venom injected. My wife had reached level 3. Level 1 and 2 is where most people get in regards to pain and effects associated with it. Some scorpions will sting and not inject poison while others (usually younger ones) will shoot a ton into the person. Either way, you can expect a ton of pain and discomfort for many hours and possibly through the night. Then numbness and tingling for several days.
Another weird side effect is that water has an extremely bad taste which makes drinking water nearly impossible. Juice, soda pop and other flavored liquids were the only alternative.
Poison Control was very helpful and called us back every hour for the next 3 hours to check on her and make sure she was ok. This was a great alternative to going to the emergency room, which would have been completely useless and very uncomfortable compared to being in the comfort of your own home.
Thank goodness it was an adult that was stung instead of one of the little kids. Just a few feet away a baby was sitting on the sidewalk playing. We'd never seen scorpions at this park so it was something we weren't expecting.
So what does this all have to do with Preparedness? Well, we were lucky that we knew a little bit (and some incorrect information) and were able to do some quick online searches (which actually had almost all incorrect information and suggestions) and call Poison Control. But what if there was not Internet or telephones available? Would we have thought that she was dying and made other unnecessary mistakes on top of the ones we already made? We were lucky that this was a learning experience and we had all the medical resources available. And what if it was one of the children? The thought of our little ones experiencing that pain makes us shudder.
This also got us thinking about other medical emergencies that could happen and what we would do if we were on our own in having to deal with them with the knowledge we have. Are we prepared? Do we know what to do if one of the kids is stung by a bee and goes into shock? What about CPR, excessive bleeding, broken bones, life-threatening fevers, rattlesnake bits, etc. The list can go on forever and there is no way to be prepared for everything, but are you prepared for some of the basics? And are you always learning more and adding to that knowledge bank so that you are more and more prepared? Instead of being completely dependent on others, do you have the basic knowledge to take care of your children and family until you get proper medical attention IF it is even available?
So in the next few months, make it a goal to get better educated in some basic medical training. Find out who is offering free CPR and basic first aid courses in your community. Look at getting CERT certified. Gather your friends together to take some classes or trainings with you. And pass that knowledge on to you kids, no matter what their ages. Find classes that are designed for youth and sign them up. Make it a friend and family event and get prepared together. Because who knows... you may need to rely on your friends to come to your aid. And I'd sure rather have them assisting me after a little bit of training than no training at all!
Good luck and watch out for these little devils!
Enjoy the journey!
Bark Scorpion - The bark scorpion is the most venomous scorpion in North America, and its venom can cause severe pain (coupled with numbness and tingling) in adult humans, typically lasting between 24 to 72 hours. Temporary dysfunction in the area stung is common; e.g. a hand or possibly arm can be immobilized or experience convulsions. It also may cause the loss of breath for a short period of time. Due to the extreme pain induced, many victims describe sensations of electrical jolts after envenomation.
Fatalities from scorpion envenomation in the USA are rare and are limited to small animals (including small pets), small children, and adults with compromised immune systems. Extreme reaction to the venom is indicated by numbness, frothing at the mouth, paralysis, and a neuromotor syndrome that may be confused with a seizure and that may make breathing difficult, particularly for small children. Two recorded fatalities have occurred in the state of Arizona since 1968; the number of victims stung each year in Arizona is estimated to be in the thousands. In Mexico, more than 100,000 people are stung annually, and during a peak period in the 1980s, the bark scorpion claimed up to 800 lives there.