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How to Treat Wasp Stings (Symptoms and Remedies)

Looking to learn how to treat wasp stings?

Well then, you're in the right place!

In this guide you will learn:

  • What wasps are
  • Symptoms of a wasp sting
  • Some common complications of wasp stings (like anaphylaxis)
  • What to do if someone shows signs of severe allergic reactions
  • Home remedies and natural treatment for wasp stings
how to treat wasp stings

Wasps are an important part of our environment, but they could be also dangerous to us, to our children and pets.

If you've been stung by a wasp, you know how painful they are. If you haven't been stung, you surely don't want to be.

Ideally you can keep these insects away with wasp repellent or wasp deterrents. Wasps stings do happen though, and it's important to be prepared.

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What is a Wasp?

Wasp is a group of insects of the Hymenoptera order, which includes over 100,000 species of insects. Their suborder is Apocrita, which also includes insects like ants and bees. They even share a common ancestor with ants and bees, but do not form a clade.

The most common wasps are hornets and yellowjackets. These live together in nests with non-reproductive workers and an egg laying queen.

Wasps can live anywhere and that’s why their stings are common. 

Like hornets and bees, wasps are equipped with a stinger, which they use for self-defense. Their stings are quite uncomfortable (to say the least!) and can cause significant irritation and pain because the venom is strongly alkaline.

Read Also: What are the best traps to catch wasps?

Even though the actual composition of wasp venom isn’t well known, we do know it contains peptides that are referred to as 'wasp kinin.' Like bee venom, it contains histamine, the enzyme hyaluronidase, and phospholipase A.

Wasp venom also contains a compound called acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter It intensifies the pain from a sting by stimulating pain receptors.

A sting is like an injection with a syringe. During an attack, the wasp can sting more than once because its stinger does not become stuck in the skin of the victim like the stinger of the bee.

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What are Symptoms of a Wasp Sting?

There are two categories of people: those with sting allergies and those without. Those in the second category will only show minor (but painful) symptoms after being stung by a wasp.

A sting feels like a sharp pain followed by a burning sensation at the sting area.

The skin will turn red, swell, and may also feel itchy.

Read Also: How much does it cost to exterminate wasps?

More About Common Local Reactions

The area around the sting site may develop a raised welt and in the middle of the welt there will be a tiny white mark.

This is where the stinger punched the skin. For those who are non-allergic to stings, the swelling and the pain usually recede after several hours.

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Large Local Reactions

This term is used to describe more prominent symptoms associated with a wasp sting. It happens to people who are allergic to wasp venom.

These reactions may include extreme swelling and redness that increases for 2 or 3 days after the sting. Vomiting and nausea can also occur. Large local reactions may subside in a week or so.

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A large local reaction to a wasp sting doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have this type of reaction to future stings.

You may have one strong reaction but never show the same reactions again in future.

Or you could. There isn't any specific system in place that dictates how your body will respond to a wasp sting.

Severe Reactions (Anaphylaxis)

Anaphylaxis is the most severe reaction to wasp sting. It occurs when your body goes into shock as a result of the wasp venom. You will begin to experience the symptoms shortly after being stung by a wasp.

Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. It affects multiple parts of the body.

Those who go into shock after an insect sting do so very quickly and the symptoms include:

  • Itching or hives  in areas of the body not affected by the sting
  • Severe swelling of the throat, lips, or face
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing difficulties, such as gasping or wheezing 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Racing or weak pulse

All these symptoms may not be experienced at the same time after a wasp sting, but you can experience at least some of them after the first sting or in subsequent stings.

People who experience anaphylactic shock after the first sting are up to 60 percent more likely to experience it again in the future stings.

What Are Complications of Wasp Stings?

Wasp stings may contribute to complications that involve the nervous system. Even though this is rare, don't take chances.

In such cases, you may experience motor aphasia (the impairment of writing abilities and speech), pupil dilation, and muscle weakness following a wasp sting. These nervous complications are extreme and unlikely to occur.

How to Treat Wasp Stings

Moderate Reactions to Wasp Stings

Moderate reactions to wasp stings can be treated at home.

Follow this procedure:

  1. Use soap and water to clean the sting area to remove as much of the venom as possible. Keeping the wound clean and dry prevents infection.
  2. Apply an ice pack to the wound site to reduce pain and swelling.
  3. Cover the sting area with a clean bandage (optional).

If the skin irritation or itching becomes bothersome, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to the affected area.

Colloidal oatmeal and baking soda can also be used in the bath or through medicated skin creams to soothe skin.

how to treat wasp stings

Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or any other over-the-counter pain relievers can reduce pain and inflammation caused by wasp stings.

Over-the-counter solution to reduce itching include antihistamines like benadryl. Take all medications as directed to avoid possible side effects like drowsiness or stomach irritation.

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If you had not had a tetanus booster shot in the last 10 years, you should get a tetanus shot within some days of the sting.

For Severe Reactions

Severe allergic reactions require immediate medical attention. If available, administer an EpiPen as soon as possible. If you have a history of wasp allergies, administer the drug as soon as you are stung.

To treat severe allergic reactions you can:

  • Continue with epinephrine to calm the immune system
  • Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if breathing has stopped
  • Apply steroids, oxygen, or other medications to improve breathing (only recommended for those with experience)

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What to Do if Someone Shows Signs of Severe Allergic Reaction

  • Immediately call local emergency services.
  • If the victim can speak, ask them whether they have an epinephrine auto-injector. If they do, help them use it according to the directions on the label.
  • Clean the area of the sting, apply a cold pack to the wound site, and cover it with a clean bandage.
  • Encourage the victim to lie down quietly with their legs elevated and to remain calm and stay still.
  • If the victim starts to vomit, turn them onto their side to prevent choking.
  • In case the victim becomes unconscious and stops breathing, start CPR and continue until medical help arrives.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet as this may make matters worse.
  • Avoid giving them anything to drink or eat.

Read Also: What are some good wasp sprays?

Home Remedies and Natural Treatments for Wasp Stings

Some substances that are readily available in our homes can be used to treat wasp stings or to reduce the itchiness and pain. These include:

Vinegar

Vinegar can be used to treat the itchiness and the swollen area. Dampen a cloth with vinegar and apply it to the site of the sting.

Baking soda

Applying a thick layer of baking soda mixed with water to the sting area will help reduce the redness and pain. 

Toothpaste

Toothpaste is also an effective treatment to bring down the reddish swelling. If the sting is on your face, don't apply toothpaste too close to your eyes

Salt

Salt can be used as anti-inflammatory and to reduce pain. Mix with water and massage it to the punctured skin. 

Onions and garlic

These vegetables have a high anti-inflammatory effect, so they can help you with fighting the itchy feeling and the redness.

Ice

Apply some ice or an ice pack to the site of the sting to reduce inflammation and itchiness. Ice also helps with reduce redness. 

Lemon juice

It might be a bit uncomfortable to massage the irritated skin with lemon juice, but it will help to reduce the redness and the itchiness. 

Aloe vera 

Aloe Vera is a great remedy, because it calms your skin and helps to fight off the effects of the venom. 

Honey 

Honey has calming features, but it is not recommended to use it while being outside because it could attract even more insects. 

Cucumber

Cucumbers are highly anti-inflammatory so they will help with both swollen skin and itchiness. Slice some cucumbers and massage it to the wasp sting to help to calm it down.

Basil

For pain treatment, basil leaves are extremely effective. Try crushing a few basil leaves and massaging the wasp sting with it. It should shoot the pain quickly.

Mud

Mud is great because it will help with both reducing redness, calming the swollen area and help with itchiness. Simply apply a layer on the wasp sting and wash it off once it dried. 

Plantain

Plantain acts as an astringent and if you apply it to the wasp sting it will minimize the swelling and the pain. It is especially great to use on children because it quickly helps with pain, and the redness will go away faster as well.

How to Treat Wasp Stings on Pets

Wasp stings are poisons and the subsequent swelling can close your pet’s throat and block his airway causing suffocation.

It's important to rush to a veterinarian the moment you notice that your pet has been stung in these delicate areas.

Look out for general weakness, difficulty breathing and large swelling that extend away from the sting site as symptoms that indicate that the services of a vet are necessary.

As a first aid measure, administer a remedy for the pain and apply ice pack on the affected area. 

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Final Thoughts About Wasp bites

Wasps are common during warm seasons. People who work outdoors are easy targets.

Anyone with a history of anaphylaxis should always carry a first aid kit in case they get stung. The kits should include epinephrine injections for an insect sting.

Keep wasps away by growing wasp repelling plants, using peppermint oil, wasp repelling essential oil blends, and removing wasp nests (this may require the services of professionals).

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