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Wasp Stings: Definition, Symptoms and Remedies

Posted on August 23rd, 2018 by Kiel Berry

wasp on a pipe near a house

Why do wasps sting?

Contrary to popular believe, wasps are not as mean as they are portrayed to be. They are just more protective and unlike bees, they can sting you more than once. Which is what gives them the bad reputation.

Wasps will sting you for two reasons only: You are attacking them or their nest, and it’s a defence mechanism, and the second reason why they would sting you is when you make them angry by waving your arms in their face.

The latter behaviour is observed in late Summer when the wasp colonies and nests are training and preparing their new queens for the Winter hibernation. That is the period during which the wasp workers are confused and are even more likely to attack you. If you see a wasp nest being built near your home you can contact exterminators to treat and remove the nest.

Do wasps sting or bite?

Wasps sting. They have a stinger but unlike the bees’ stingers, it is not barbed and doesn’t fall off after you are stung once. Wasps do not leave stingers inside of the wound. Since most wasps are predators and attack smaller insects, they use their stingers to release venom and paralyse their victims. So yes, they need their stingers… а lot.

How long do wasp stings last?

A wasp sting can last for up to a week until it goes away completely. The initial pain should wear off in a couple of days. The area will remain red and a little swollen but all will fade away.

How long does a wasp sting hurt? Well, it will hurt quite a bit for the first couple of minutes. Somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes is normal to feel strong pain, but it will wear off. And that is the case for people who are not allergic to wasp stings or other insect bites.

What happens when a wasp stings you?

Wasps use their venom for two reasons only – one for protection and one to attack smaller insects that they will feed on. The venom sends a signal to your body that the damage is actually bigger than it is. As it is not considered a dangerous venom and it doesn’t transmit diseases, a wasp sting can only be dangerous to allergic people. That’s why it’s important to seek immediate medical help if you are allergic.

How many times can a wasp sting?
As we mentioned above, a wasp can sting you more than once. It can sting until you manage to escape from it. Wasps release a pheromone that alarms the other wasps from the nest that there’s danger near and they can all attack you. Panther Pest Control advises you to call a wasp control specialist to inspect the nest and if necessary to treat and remove it.

Is there a number of wasp stings that is dangerous to a person?

Yes, there is. It is generally accepted that about 10-15 stings per kilogram, can be extremely dangerous and even lead to a fatal end.
In case you get stung multiple times, you should seek medical help right away or at least pay attention to the pierced areas as it is possible to develop an allergy or get a severe reaction, even if you are not allergic.

Wasp sting acid or alkali?

Wasp and hornet stings for that matter are alkalines. *Alkaline means that they have a pH which is larger than the neutral (pH7).

It is bee stings that are acidic. In fact, honeybees are the only bee species that have acidic pH in their stingers. All other species have alkaline pH.

wasps gathering in their nest

What is the pH of a wasp sting?

Wasp stings have around 6.9 pH which is close to the neutral pH. This means that the opposite, which is acid, can neutralise it. So if you want to treat your wasp sting at home you need to find something acidic, such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon, essential oils, etc.

Wasp sting neutralisation.

There are some ways that can relieve the pain and swelling of a wasp sting, however, there’s also a lot of doubt about the ‘neutralisation’ process. Why? Because the sting penetrates your skin and releases venom in your blood, which then gets carried away in your body, and applying an acidic substance to the skin hardly does something to improve the situation.

But still, some doctors will advise you to apply some vinegar to the area as it will most likely help relieve some of the pain in the area.

Vinegar for wasp stings?

Using vinegar does not guarantee you pain relief. In some occasions, it could help to some extent to get rid of some of the pain, but it wouldn’t fully eradicate it. And baking soda and water paste could help a bee sting to some extent, but won’t heal it.

Wasp sting symptoms.

For non-allergic people, the normal reactions are:

  • swelling
  • redness in the damaged area
  • pain
  • itchiness

And they will decrease in a day or two. The area will look swollen and red with a tiny white dot in the middle where the skin has been pierced.

Mild allergic reactions of the wasp sting that are not dangerous to your health are:

  • extreme swelling and redness that continues for more than two days
  • vomiting
  • nausea

You can treat the symptoms with over-the-counter remedies, painkillers and antihistamine creams for the swollen area.

What is more, these mild allergic reactions do not possess any threat to your life and are not guaranteed to show again if a wasp stings you in the future.

Dangerous symptoms in highly allergic people.
Anaphylaxis is a very serious allergic reaction to the venom from the wasp sting. It can be extremely dangerous to people who know that they are allergic should seek medical help as soon as they are stung.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • stomach cramps
  • increased heart rate
  • anxiety
  • change in pulse
  • having trouble breathing
  • vomiting

Be on the lookout for the signs so you can prevent an anaphylactic shock.

Reaction to wasp sting

Stings from wasps are not a problem for most people. They experience some symptoms that are more like a nuisance to them than a problem. Pain, itchiness, redness and swelling of the area are normal and wear off in a couple of days.

Wasp sting allergic reaction

In rare occasions, a wasp sting can continue to swell for up to 48 hours after the stinging. Sometimes it can only swell up to 24 hours. However, the swelling of the area will last for up to seven days. And the redness can last for three or more days, depending on the sensitivity of the skin.

According to the NHS,

Sometimes a larger area around the sting can be painful, red and swollen for up to a week. This is a minor allergic reaction that isn’t usually anything to worry about.
A few people may experience a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), causing breathing difficulties, dizziness and a swollen face or mouth. Dial 999 for an ambulance immediately if you have these symptoms.

Wasp sting vs bee sting

Do bees sting or bite?

Bees do not bite. It is a common misconception and many people say that they have been bitten by a bee. They haven’t. A bee does not bite. It stings. An interesting fact is that only the females sting.

Bumblebees also have smooth stingers and can too sting you multiple times. It is only the honey bee that has barbs on its stinger and dies after stinging you once.

Bee sting acid or alkali?

Bees’ venom has a pH of 4.5 or 5, which is lower than the neutral pH (7), and this makes it more acidic than alkaline (which wasp venom is). More alkaline substances can help relieve the bee sting. However, many scientists and medical representatives have their doubts as the venom goes in a person’s blood and treating the area where the skin is penetrated would hardly have an effect on the venom.

Nevertheless, many people report that they have felt some relief after applying an alkaline substance to their skin.

There are a number of differences, however.

Wasp sting vs bee sting

Bee stingWasp sting
Mild pain in the area.Stronger pain in the area.
Stinger is barbed and is always found inside of the wound as it is torn when the bee tries to fly away.Stinger is note barbed and is never left in the wound.
Bees die after they sting you.Wasps can sting you multiple times and won’t die.
Bees inject about 50 micrograms of venom.Wasps can only inject from 2 to 15 micrograms. But can inject it multiple times.
A bee’s venom is acidic.A wasp’s venom is alkaline.

How to treat a bee sting?

When a bee stings you it is not only the stinger that remains in your skin but the venom sack as well. Which means that after the bee is dead, the venom will still be pumped into your blood.

To treat your bee sting you have to start by removing the stinger but this has to be done carefully. Do not use tweezers because if you squeeze the stinger too hard it will release its venom.

What you should do instead is use a blunt object such as a pocket knife, your fingernail, or even a toothpick to gently get the stinger out.

Then wash the area with cold water and some mild soap. Then you can use ice wrapped in a towel to relieve the pain.

Non-allergic people can take a painkiller – ibuprofen or aspirin can help.

For a local relief, you can use calamine lotion. Gently apply the cream to the affected area. Or make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it on the skin.

If you’ve suffered multiple bee stings, submerge the entire area in cold water. Baking soda could be applied to the water too.

Allergic people should call for emergency help right away. While waiting try to slow down the release of the venom by lying still and keeping the stung area immobile.

How to neutralise a bee sting?

The baking soda is said to neutralise the bee’s venom. That’s why it’s used in a mixture with water in the affected area.

Also, toothpaste could be used. If a bee stung you and you have no access to medicine, run to the bathroom and apply some toothpaste on the area, after you have taken out the stinger.

How to get rid of a wasp sting?

Hives

Image Title: EMminor2010/ Uriticaria
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
License Type: CC BY-SA 3.0

Wasp stings are characterised by sharp local pain where the stinger has pierced your skin and released venom. To most people it entire ordeal ends with some swelling and redness to accompany the pain, and they wear off in a couple of days.

However, for people with allergies that is not the case. For an allergic person, a wasp sting can have a fatal end. That is why to start treating the area as soon as possible. Sometimes a person isn’t aware that they are allergic to the wasp venom.

How to soothe a wasp sting?

A few things can be used to soothe a wasp sting:

  • Garlic or onion
  • Ice
  • Cold water and soap
  • Cucumber

What essential oil is good for wasp stings?

Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties and is widely used to treat minor wounds, acne, and to fight fungus and bacteria. And it is used to treat bug stings and bites.

So if you have some of it at home, it will help you with your wasp or bee sting.

Some other essential oils can also help: lavender and eucalyptus also have anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve pain.

Wasp sting treatment vinegar?

Naturally, to neutralise a wasp sting, you have to use an acidic substance. The wasp venom is alkaline and in order to neutralise it, you need the opposite, which is acid. This means that vinegar can help you neutralise at least some of the venom and the pain.

Also, you can use lemon juice since it too is acidic. You can also cut a lemon and half and use one part to rub the stung area.

How to reduce swelling after wasp sting?

All above-listed home remedies will help you reduce the pain and the itchiness for a while, however, they shouldn’t be used as an only treatment for wasps or bee stings.

To reduce swelling above all, apply ice cubes wrapped in a cloth or a towel immediately after the stinging has occurred (and after the stinger has been taken out).

Using an anti-inflammatory lotion on the area is the best solution so if you have it, use it. If not, the home remedies could help relieve your pain until you find a lotion.

And if you know that you are allergic, don’t waste your time with anything and call for emergency help.

Queen wasp stings worse?

Generally, no, a queen wasp’s sting is not more dangerous than a worker wasp’s sting. There’s only a difference in the stingers, but not in the venom. A queen wasp stinger is a bit bigger and has two barbs – one to get a hold of the victim and the second one to inject venom.

Wasp sting on cat and dogs

Your pet could be playing joyfully outdoors and the next second you could see it running in panic and whimpering. It could have been stung by a wasp or a bee. Inspect the animal and look for the same signs as you would look for in a human as well – redness and swelling.

Animals show the same symptoms as people do, and they too can be allergic to insect stings or bites. If your pet is allergic, symptoms of a wasp or a bee sting can also be disorientation, difficulty moving or breathing and sickness.

If you saw your cat or dog getting stung by a wasp or a bee, you should remain calm and try to help your pet by first examining the affected area. Maybe there’s a bee stinger that you have to remove.

If the animal starts to show any of the symptoms, take it to the vet immediately.

Sometimes, dogs and cats don’t swell or show other symptoms right away. If that is the case, then you should pay close attention to your pet for the next 24 hours. If in that period you see any of the symptoms, call the vet.

How to treat a wasp sting on dogs and cats?

If your pet experiences only mild reactions or there’s no vet nearby that can help you, you can try the following methods to relieve the affected area:

If a bee stung your pet and you see the stinger still inside your pet’s skin, you have to remove it using something blunt – like your credit card, your fingernail. But do not use tweezers because if you squeeze too hard you could release more venom inside of your pet.

To treat the bee sting you can use baking soda mixed with water and soak the area. Then apply ice wrapped in a cloth.

To treat wasp sting in dog or cat, you could use vinegar, lemon juice or half a lemon to treat the affected area and neutralise the wasp venom. And then apply ice to help reduce the swelling.

What use are wasps?

Some wasp species act as pollinators almost like bees. It is not their primary function, but they some do contribute to the pollination of the plants.

Wasps are also some of nature’s pest controllers, as they feed on a variety of small insects. They control a vast majority of insect population and without wasps, the entire planet would be swamped with insects.

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