Insects & Scorpions

About Bites & Stings

Insect bites and stings are common and most are considered minor. It is only when the insect is poisonous or when the patient has an allergic reaction and runs the risk of developing anaphylactic shock that the situation becomes an emergency. Even under those conditions, accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment can save lives and prevent permanent tissue damage.

Normal Reaction

The normal reaction to an insect sting is a sharp, stinging pain followed by an itchy, swollen, painful, raised area. The swelling may be there for several days, but usually goes away within 24 hours. Local reactions are rarely serious or life threatening and can be treated with cold compresses.

Allergic Reaction

However, there are some people who have allergic reactions to “normal” insect stings. Approximately 50 people die each year in the United States from insect stings. This is more than all other bites combined, including snakebites. Thousands of people are allergic to bee, wasp, and hornet stings. Insect stings can be deadly for those people, on the average, within 10 minutes of the sting but almost within the first hour.

Stinging Insects

The stinging insects that most commonly cause allergic reactions belong to a group of the hymenoptera, the insects with membranous wings. These include bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets. Stings from wasps and bees are the most common.


There are many species of scorpions found in Texas, but only one is potentially lethal. This is the bark scorpion. It is one of the smaller species being 1-1.5 inches long. It prefers dark and cool places like wood piles, palm trees, and decorative bark. The severity of the sting depends on the amount of venom injected, but scorpion stings can be fatal. About 90% of all scorpion stings occur on the hands.

This lethal scorpion is very slender and streamlined. It is straw-colored or nearly opaque and small - less than 2 inches long.

Signs and Symptoms of a Sting

  • Sharp pain at the site of the sting
  • Swelling that gradually spreads
  • Discoloration
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling
  • Poor coordination
  • Incontinence
  • Seizures


  • Apply ice to relieve the pain of the sting.
  • Be sure the victim’s airway stays clear.
  • Transport to a hospital. A specific anti-venom is available.