Australian scorpion stings: A prospective study of definite stings

Geoffrey K. Isbister, Erich S. Volschenk, Corrine R. Balit, Mark S. Harvey

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31 Citations (Scopus)


There is little information on scorpion stings in Australia. The aim of this study is to describe the circumstances and clinical effects of stings by Australian scorpions. Cases of scorpion stings were collected prospectively from calls and presentations to Australian poison information centres and emergency departments from February 2000 to April 2002. Only definite scorpion stings where the scorpion was immediately collected and expertly identified were included. There were 95 patients, 33 males and 62 females, with a mean age of 32 (SD 19.5; range 1-71) and 23 children (age<15 years). Three families of scorpions caused all stings: Buthidae (79), Bothruiridae (11, all Cercophonius spp.) and Urodacidae (five, all Urodacus spp.). The majority of stings (76%) were by one genus of scorpion Lychas spp. Seventy one percent of stings occurred between 6pm and 8am and 82 (86%) occurred indoors. Sixty percent of stings occurred on distal limbs. The median duration of effects was 6 h (interquartile range (IQR): 1-24 h). Immediate localised pain occurred in all cases and was severe in 76cases (80%). Other local effects included red mark/redness (66%), tenderness (35%), numbness (12%) and paraesthesia (11%). Minor systemic effects (nausea, headache and malaise) occurred in 11% of cases. There were no deaths or major systemic envenoming. Less severe effects were observed for the larger Urodacus species, compared to Lychas spp. Scorpion stings in Australia do not appear to cause severe or life-threatening effects, even in children. This differs from other parts of the world, where severe envenoming is reported. The major clinical effect is severe pain, consistent with other scorpion stings. Most stings occurred indoors and at night.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-883
Number of pages7
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2003
Externally publishedYes


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