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Scorpion Sting Treatment in Guatemala

Scorpion Sting Treatment and Prevention FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- When in the tropics, I always shake out my clothes before putting them on my body, I always check my shoes to make sure no malicious little creature had made them their abode. This is preparation against scorpions, spiders, a half dozen other creatures that can bite, [...]

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Scorpion Sting Treatment and Prevention

FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- When in the tropics, I always shake out my clothes before putting them on my body, I always check my shoes to make sure no malicious little creature had made them their abode. This is preparation against scorpions, spiders, a half dozen other creatures that can bite, string, inject poison, or wrought pain upon an unscrupulous human.

I woke up yesterday as normal, I checked my shoes for scorpions as normal.

“There was a really big black scorpion on the roof!” my wife proclaimed the night before.

I thought he fled in the dark of night. I thought wrong.

I did not check the towel for scorpions before I wrapped it around my body. I ran out of my room clothed in only the towel. I readjusted it at one point. I felt something big cinch my hand while concurrently delivering a shot of pain.


I flayed my arm in the air. A little black beastie feel to the earth. As he ran beneath some leaves I caught a glimpse of his shape, his frontal claws, his tail curled up over his two inch body like a C. After 11 years of world travel, I had been stung by a scorpion.

A sigh of defeat emitted from my body, I felt as if I lost a long struggle. It finally happened, a scorpion got me. I had a moment of surreal suspension, that which I had feared happening for many years had happened. It took a moment for it to sink in.

When it did, I yelled some more. I cursed the little beastie.

I noticed that the pain was sharp, but not debilitating. I chuckled a little, I was bested:

The one time that I did not check all of my clothing was the time a scorpion laid dormant, ready to strike. Hundreds of times I have checked my clothing and shoes for scorpions and spiders to find nothing hiding. The one time that I approached my security check with frivolous haste was the one time that a scorpion was waiting for me.

Life just works out like that.

How to treat a scorpion sting

Now with a fresh scorpion sting it was time to determine what to do. It was not my impression that the scorpions in Guatemala are equipped with poison deadly enough to kill a man, but I sought to check anyway. It is interesting to note the amount of crystalline clarity a human can possess in times when the organism is threatened. In my short glimpse at the scorpion, I memorized its details as if I had taken a photo.

It was around four inches long from its claws to the crux of the arch in the tail, it was black, it waddled. I described it to one of the Maya cooks who is from the jungle.

“Es peligroso?” I asked.

She looked at me with eyes wide, “Es muy peligroso.”


My stung finger was now swollen to twice its normal capacity, both of my hands were numb, my feet tingled, my tongue was swollen, and my lips quivered. “Muy peligroso” was an ominous designation for my condition.

I asked around a little more, and determined that “muy peligroso” actually meant that the scorpion’s sting hurts a lot, not that it is deadly. I would be alright.

The day went by with my hands and feet tingling and my tongue swollen, though no lasting effects would come of the scorpion sting.

Most types of scorpion are more or less animals to avoid for the painful quality of their stings. Most are not deadly. There are a few scorpions that are poisonous and have had many deaths attributed to them, but it is my impression that their maliciousness has been played up greatly. Most scorpion stings will just hurt, not kill.

Out of 1500 scorpion species, 50 are dangerous to humans. Scorpion stings cause a wide range of conditions, from severe local skin reactions to neurologic, respiratory, and cardiovascular collapse. Envenomation from most scorpions results in a simple, painful, local reaction that can be treated with analgesics, antihistamines, and symptomatic/supportive care. –Scorpion Information

Scorpions are common in the eastern jungles of Guatemala. They are treated more or less like the people of the USA and Europe treat bees and wasps: you stay away from them because they can hurt you, but they are not usually biological entities that will challenge your senses of self preservation.

After 11 years of travel, I was finally stung by a scorpion. The effects of the sting were rather anticlimactic — nobody around here gave a shit that a scorpion stung me — but I must say that I am grateful for this fact.

In Guatemala, scorpion stings hurt, not kill. The treatment for which is to do nothing, and let the poison pass from your system. One day after being bitten, and the effects should subside. Besides washing the wound and taking pain mediation, no further treatment is necessary for most scorpion stings.
As with many other aspects of the natural world, scorpions are generally feared more than they are truly fearsome.

Though my hand still throbs as I write this.

Related articles: Sea Urchin Wounds Travelers in Red Sea | Camping at Tikal | Bot Fly in Guatemala Jungle

Guatemala Travelogue Entries | Guatemala Travel Guide | Guatemala Photos


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Filed under: Animals, Central America, Danger, Guatemala, Health, Rain Forests

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3716 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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7 comments… add one

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  • craig | travelvice.com July 2, 2010, 5:59 pm

    I got tagged by one hiding in my backpack in Colombia:

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com July 3, 2010, 10:21 am

      Dealing with scorpions is an interesting endeavor. They are not going to come after you, rather they are going to wait until you touch them of your own volition. It is a real shock when you think you are doing something benign and you get stung before you even see it.

      Man, you had one in your backpack? Ungrateful traveler, you gave him a free ride and he stung you for it haha.

      Thanks for putting up the link to your dance with scorpions.

      Link Reply
    • kunal December 18, 2010, 3:09 pm

      Hi,I am from INDIA,I have found a leaf that can gives relief from Scorpion’s bite withen a minute,i want to sell this Discovery.If any onces interested to purchase this remady please reply me on this e-mail id.

      Link Reply
      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 18, 2010, 10:57 pm

        What is the name of this plant whose leaves can relieve the pain associated with a scorpion sting?

        Link Reply
  • david July 5, 2010, 3:10 am

    Dunno if this applies in all cases, but folklore here is South Africa is to check for relative size of pinchers vs. sting if you want to determine how poisonous the scorpion is that stung you.

    Generally, big pinchers / small sting means not so poinsonous, since the animal depends on strengs (big pinchers) to overcome pray. This seems to fit the first photo above.

    The inverse indicates more poisonous, since it depends on its poison (big sting) to overcome pray. This seems to fit the second photo above.

    As said – this is probably not a rule, but does make a certain sense when you consider it. I just panic anyway… 🙂

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com July 5, 2010, 3:37 pm

      I think this is right on with the science of it, Dave. Big tail equals big sting, big pinchers equals big sting.

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  • Jesse July 6, 2010, 12:40 am

    Ouch, sorry man. I have gotten a couple stings, which as per local advice I treated by chewing tabaco for a minute then putting the chewed gunk on the sting site. It took the stinging away but my lips, tongue and toes stayed numb for a few days. Good luck!

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