Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Much Does It Hurt?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index, created by renowned entomologist Justin O. Schmidt, is a pain scale that rates the relative pain caused by different insect stings.

Schmidt created his pain index (from 0 to 4) after being stung by 78 different species (see below).

We would like to ask the open water swimming community to similarly describe the stings they received from marine life. Please send your comments to

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

Copyright © 2008 - 2009 by World Open Water Swimming Association


John Griffin said...

Ok, I will take the bait.

Pain is an inconsistent continuum and I think the comparisons given are definitely inconsistent.

I would describe pain along this scale.

0: waking up in the morning in a comfy bed. Your body is warm and toasty and feels good.

1: Stepping out of your warm comfy bed, you step on a rough surface. You notice the sensation, but dismiss it instantly.

2: You have to walk on the uncomfortable surface continously.

3: You are not comfortable doing normal tasks, but the irritation does not affect your ability to go through life.

4: Just like three, but you are grumpy throughout the time the pain occurs.

5: You can function in your life, but tell others of your discomfort and think when you get the time you will see about going to a doctor for pain relief.

6: You are not very functional and decided to seek medical assistance.

7: You seek medical assistance and request help in relieving the pain.

8: You insist upon pain relief, including hospitalization.

9: You are minimially functional with the pain experienced, difficulty with trying to perform any normal human functions, i.e. communication, swallowing, breathing.

10: Without extreme medical intervention all rationalitity is extinguished, you are reduced to a screaming, moaning, unconcsciouness.

11: (just for fun) you are dead.

All endurance athletes are familiar with pain. I wrote his because of the subjectiveness of pain. My wife is a redhead, who are noted as having the least amount of pain tolernace, while I have an extremely high pain tolerance. I was once asked by an emergency room doctor why I had waited so long to seek treatment as he couldn't understand I was still functioning. I was at what on my scale would rate a 7 when I sought treatment.

Steven Munatones said...

We enjoyed learning your Scale of Pain, but are curious at what level does your wife go to the hospital and at what level has the most painful jellyfish sting occurred? ^