Wasp stings are always possible during the summer months, when people spend more time in nature and come in contact with these insects. These stings can be severely painful but without any serious consequences for most people.
Wasps are flying insects who use the stinger in their tail to defend themselves, similar to related species like the bees, hornets or bumblebees. When a wasp stings a human, it injects an amount of venom into the skin. A bee can only sting once, since the sting remains in the skin and actually kills the insect in the process. However, a wasp can sting multiple times and inject more venom. Even if the stinger doesn't remain in the wound, a wasp attack can cause severe pain.
The initial reaction after a wasp sting is a short period of acute pain, as well as the sensation of burning in the area. The skin can also become itchy, swollen and red. Most people will not have other symptoms, except those who have an allergy.
A number of local symptoms are normal after a wasp sting. Usually, the location of the sting looks like a raised welt. Sometimes, the exact spot is visible as a small white dot in the center of the welt. There can be severe initial pain and inflammation, which is usually completely gone after a few hours. People who aren't allergic don't require medical attention.
Doctors use the term "large local reactions" to designate more serious consequences of a sting from a wasp or a bee. These can be caused by an allergic reaction that is not strong enough to lead to anaphylactic shock or other extreme consequences that are potentially lethal. The symptoms of large local reactions can be persistent swelling and redness for several days after the attack, but also other issues such as vomiting or nausea. Large local reactions don't usually require medical treatment. Even if they are definitely unpleasant, the symptoms don't last more than a week. To be safe, it is better to announce your doctor if a wasp sting causes you such a reaction.
Large local reactions can be quite unpredictable. Sometimes, a person can have a very strong reaction once but only minor symptoms on the next stings. Other people have strong reactions every single time. It is not possible to accurately predict how the body will react to the next sting. The only way to be sure that no serious symptoms will occur again is simply to be careful and avoid the stings.
If you are not allergic to wasp stings, the simple first aid home remedies are usually enough. Wasp stings are easily prevented by simply avoiding areas where the insects are active, wearing thick clothes or applying insect repellent.
However, if an allergic person is stung, the situation can be quite dangerous and several steps must be followed. The first step is to remove the stinger right away, if one is stuck in the wound. Antihistamine drugs like Benadryl or Claritin can reduce symptoms such as inflammation, itching or swelling. If the pain is severe, drugs like Motrin or Tylenol are effective counters.
Other simple measures can provide relief. The application of ice in the area, for about 20 minutes each hour, is known to be very effective. To protect the skin from freezing, place the ice in a towel or cloth in order to prevent direct contact with it. Another easy relief is to generously wash the area of the sting with water and soap. Applying hydrocortisone cream on the sting area can decrease inflammation and reduce all of the other symptoms such as itching.
People who are allergic can even be killed by a wasp sting, so an immediate reaction is needed. If you've had a violent reaction to a sting in the past, ingest an antihistamine right away and request emergency medical assistance. If you already have a prescription for epinephrine (Adrenaclick, Auvi-Q, EpiPen, Symjepi), make sure that you have two doses with you at all times and use them immediately after a sting.
If you are not allergic to the venom and you've been only stung once, no treatment is usually required. Make sure that you remove the stinger from the wound if needed, clean the area and apply an external antibiotic if you are concerned about a possible infection. Your doctor can give you other drugs such as antihistamines against itching, as well as ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) as painkillers. A tetanus shot might be needed as well, if your immunization has expired.
Antihistamines are usually prescribed to people with mild allergic reactions. The symptoms are usually itching and the appearance of a rash on a large area of the skin, without more severe problems such as irregular breathing. Steroids or injections with epinephrine (adrenaline) might also be needed, administered on the spot or in the ambulance. A period of monitoring in the emergency section of a hospital might also be required, but long-term admission to the hospital is rarely needed.