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Nobody likes sustaining a painful arthropod bite or sting, but some people are willing to go to extremes to bypass this pain. In addition to the pain caused by venomous bites and stings, some arachnids, such as the brown recluse, can inflict venomous bites that leave behind wounds that can become necrotic. Although it may be hard to believe, but several sources of lay and medical literature used to recommend the use of stun guns to treat arthropod bites and stings. It is perhaps even harder to believe that stun guns were once heavily advertised in the media as being an ideal method for the treatment of venomous bites and stings. Even to this day, some medical practitioners and outdoorsman recommend stun guns for treating venomous bites and stings. However, the Food and Drug Administration outlawed the marketing of stun guns to treat arthropod envenomations in 1990, and today, the devices are advertised solely for use as personal protection devices. Despite this law, several companies have recently started advertising the use of “first-aid electric shock” devices for the treatment of venomous wounds. Many of these new devices are marketed as being pain-free.

When a stun gun is activated against the surface of a person’s skin the shock stimulates superficial nervous system tissue, resulting in repeated muscle contractions, as well as immediate pain followed by a feeling of numbness. Apparently, using a stun gun to deliver a volt of electricity over a venomous wound temporarily shuts down the vessels surrounding the wound, preventing arthropod venom from spreading beyond the inactive vessels. Therefore, electric shocks administered over venomous wounds prevent venom from entering the bloodstream, thereby preventing systemic symptoms caused by bee, wasp, brown recluse and black widow envenomations. According to a 1991 study that tested the efficacy of “high-voltage direct current therapy” (HVDC) for venomous wound treatment, the author stated: “As long as there is any evidence of venom activity, such as pain, fever or inflammation, HVDC therapy may be beneficial.” It should be noted, however, that this medical trial involved repeated shocks over a period of time, and was obviously conducted within a controlled medical setting. Another study that reviewed medical literature concerning HVDC treatment found that children, the elderly and individuals with pacemakers are at an increased risk of suffering severe adverse effects from this treatment, and that electric shock therapy is not a suitable replacement for antivenom treatment for venomous arthropod bites and stings. Until the FDA approves of stun guns for treating venomous wounds, this practice should be considered potentially hazardous to human health.

Have you ever heard of the use of stun guns for treating venomous bites or wounds?