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There are 1,200 species of scorpions with only about 75 living in the United States. Of these, only one species in the United States is considered life threatening.

Scorpions look like small lobsters except for a tail-like posterior that ends in a bulb-like sac with a stinger at the end. They have four pairs of legs. They possess large pincers for holding their victim while feeding. Scorpions vary in color from black, gray, brown to yellow and are from 1/2 inch long to 7 1/4 inches long.

The bark scorpion is the only species in the United States that is considered highly dangerous. These are most common in Arizona, but they have also been found in New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California. They are generally from 1/2 inch to 3 inches long with pincers are about six times as long as the scorpion's broadest part. They are small, slim, light straw-colored arachnids and can inject a small amount of powerful venom that can be dangerous to little children, epileptics, asthmatics, and people with chronic health problems. The symptoms can be: pain at the site, numbness, restlessness, fever, a fast pulse, breathing difficulty, convulsions, staggering gait, thick tongue sensation, slurred speech, drooling, muscle twitching, and abdominal pain. Healthy adults usually have little serious reaction beyond pain.

Here are some ways to avoid being stung by a scorpion:
1. Never go barefoot in the desert, particularly at night. (Shake out your shoes and boots.)
2. Never pick up anything off the desert floor without turning it over first with a stick or your foot.
3. Shake out clothes and towels. When camping, shake out sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, and stuff bags.
4. Keep an infant's crib away from walls. The legs of the crib can also be placed in clean wide-mouth glass jars. Scorpions cannot climb clean glass.
5. Wear leather gloves and use caution when moving objects in the yard, crawl space, or at a campsite.
6. Accumulations of firewood, stones, lumber, and other debris should be removed from the vicinity of a dwelling, as scorpions tend to hide here.
7. Tight door and window seals will help keep scorpions out of the house.
8. Hire a professional to protect your home.

If you are stung, the sting should receive prompt attention since an individual's reaction to venom can vary greatly. If stung:

1. Contact a physician, hospital or poison control center for instructions.
2. Immediately apply an ice cube or small plastic bag with crushed ice to the sting site. Elevate the area on a pillow.
3. Do not make any incision at the site of the sting. Keep the area clean to avoid infection.
4. Keep the victim relaxed.
5. The victim should not consume alcoholic beverages or take sedatives.
6. Capture the scorpion for identification, if possible.

Scorpions have been around for over 450 million years. More fiction and less fact is known about scorpions because they are man-shy, and being nocturnal, they are rarely seen. Therefore, any person who has had the misfortune of being acquainted with them first-hand becomes an expert. The stories told become exaggerated, and like gossip, the final tale rarely resembles the original version.

Scorpions will sting, and even if the sting is not as dangerous as that of the bark scorpion, all are extremely painful. Ice will help. But prevention is a better alternative than a cure!