The dangerous Buthidae are characterised by their small pincers and thick tails, while the relatively harmless Scorpionidae have large pincers and thin tails. The most dangerous buthid genera are Parabuthus and Buthotus. The venom of scorpions is neurotoxic and may result in respiratory or cardiac failure. Young children and old people suffering from heart or respiratory ailments are particularly at risk. Some species of Parabuthus can squirt their venom for a distance of up to a metre, causing envenomation of the eyes or any open cut on the body. When aggravated, many scorpions are able to make a loud hissing noise similar to that of a small adder.
To avoid being stung by a scorpion, wear long trousers, and boots with socks tucked up over trousers. Do not put your hand into a hole, tunnel or bird’s nest into which you are unable to see. Take care when picking up rocks and logs, and roll them towards you. Avoid picking up scorpions that appear to be dead, in case they are alive. Do not allow your face to come too close to a scorpion, since some can squirt their venom into your eyes. Check bedding and sleeping bags and sleep on a camp stretcher rather than on the ground. Leave boots in an upright position during the night and shake out clothing and boots before putting them on the next morning. Check loose-lying rocks and dead leaves and wood around your campsite. Never walk barefoot outside at night.
Being able to recognise scorpion spoor may also help one avoid being stung. When doing fieldwork in the Kalahari, I one morning found scorpion spoor close to where I was sleeping. Following the spoor, I discovered the scorpion underneath the spare wheel that I had been using as a seat.