Wasp stings are usually compared to bee stings. This is because both insects inject venom when they sting and the effects on the skin are somehow similar. Both stings are painful and cause redness and swelling. But unfortunately, some people may have more serious effects and can develop life-threatening illnesses.
So, what should you do with a wasp sting? If only a single wasp stung you, the effect is usually mild, and the wound can easily be treated. You can simply wash it with soap and water to disinfect it. If the sting has caused swelling, applying some ice can heal it. However, people with sting allergies should contact doctor immediately.
To understand more about wasp stings, you should know that there are two different types of wasps – the solitary wasps and the social wasps. As their names suggest, solitary wasps prefer living alone while social wasps live in a colony. Both of them sting humans, but it does mean they pose the same danger. Continue reading to learn more about them.
Why Do Wasps Sting?
In general, wasps don’t attack people for no reason. Solitary wasps have more species than social wasps. However, they are not aggressive and rarely sting humans. Instead, solitary wasps such as cicada killers use their sting to hunt for prey. Therefore, this group of wasps is not dangerous to humans.
Social wasps such as paper wasps and yellowjackets sting to defend their colony. They sting humans if they feel threatened, and they usually attack in huge numbers. Nonetheless, only female wasps sting because their egg-laying organs are modified to stingers. Male wasps are not dangerous at all.
How Do Wasps Sting?
Male wasps don’t sting because they don’t have an egg-laying organ while female wasp’s stinging apparatus is smooth and barbless. It consists of a sac of Hymenoptera venom. Wasps sting by injecting their stinger into the skin and releasing venom in the surrounding tissue. No wonder that wasp stings are painful.
Can Wasps Sting More Than Once?
Wasps can sting more than once. They can sting people several times without hurting themselves. This is because, unlike bees that have barbed stingers and leave their stingers on skins, wasps don’t leave their stingers behind. That is also why wasp stings are far more dangerous than bee stings.
What Does a Wasp Sting Looks Like?
A wasp sting looks like a small puncture wound on the skin. It may develop into a raised, swollen, red mark around the wound with a white mark on the middle. However, the severity of the sting varies from person to person. For some people who are allergic to a wasp sting, the swelling may extend up to the entire arm.
For multiple wasp stings, the redness and swelling of the skin may be worse, and the pain will last for several hours. However, people who are allergic to wasp stings may experience what is being dubbed as “large local reactions.” Here, the effect of the sting may be severe, and the wound may last for 2-3 days.
Do Wasps Die After They Sting You?
Wasps don’t die after they sting you. As mentioned earlier, they don’t lose their stingers as honey bees do. Once a wasp stings you, it will inject venom on your skin and will pull its stingers out afterward. Social wasps attack people in multitudes, which is why people are more afraid of them than of solitary wasps.
Is a Wasp Sting Worse Than a Bee Sting?
The answer depends on the kind of bee. Just like wasps, bumblebees and carpenter bees have a smooth stinger. Therefore, these two bee species also sting multiple times without dying and are as worse as wasps. They have the same effect on the skin, but their stings are usually less painful than wasp stings.
On the other hand, honey bees only sting once because they die after they sting. However, a single honey bee sting can have 50 micrograms of venom. This amount is significantly higher than the 2-15 micrograms of venom from a single wasp sting. Therefore, a single honey bee sting is worse than one wasp sting.
But again, wasps can sting many times, just like carpenter bees and bumblebees. To inject the same amount that a single honey bee can inject, a single wasp only needs to sting at least three times. Therefore, wasp stings are worse than honey bee stings, even if both insect species sting at the same number.
How to Remove a Wasp Stinger?
Wasps remove their stinger on the skin because it has no barb. Therefore, there is no wasp stinger to be removed while honey bees leave their stinger. But in case a wasp stings you and left its stinger behind, you can do the same stinger removal process for bee stings.
To remove a wasp stinger, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Use your fingernail, the back of the knife, a piece of gauze, or any straight-edged object to remove the stinger. Don’t ever use tweezers to remove a stinger. This tool can squeeze the stinger, and the amount of venom on your skin is very likely to increase.
Step 2: Wash the sting site thoroughly with soap and water.
Step 3: To reduce swelling, wrap some small ice cubes in a clean cloth and place the cloth on the wound. For better results, do this every 10 minutes.
Step 4: If necessary, cover the wound with a bandage.
Step 5: Closely monitor the status of the wound. If there are signs or symptoms of allergy such as dizziness and difficulty in breathing, go to a doctor immediately.
How to Reduce Swelling From Wasp Sting?
To reduce swelling and itchiness due to wasp stings, you may also take some over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications like Ibuprofen. Antihistamine creams such as chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine can also help in reducing skin swelling. If you will take some drugs, follow the directions carefully.
How to Treat a Wasp Sting?
Different people may have different reactions to wasp stings. In most cases, people stung by wasps easily recover. A single wasp sting on your arm usually doesn’t cause alarm. If you have been stung by a wasp in your mouth, nose, or throat, you should immediately seek medical attention.
In rare cases, allergic reactions to wasp stings may be extreme and very severe. This is often referred to as anaphylaxis. Here, your body goes into shock shortly after a wasp stings you. The symptoms include a sudden drop in blood pressure, vomiting, and diarrhea. To treat anaphylaxis, you will need help from a doctor.
But typically, the initial wasp sting is likely to cause minor discomfort only and can easily be treated at home. After removing the stinger and washing the wound, you can also take some medications to soothe the infected skin or if skin irritation has become bothersome.
Below are some of the home treatments you can try:
1. Essential oils
Most essential oils have antiseptic, antibacterial, or antifungal properties. Some essential oil solutions have been used to treat skin problems since centuries ago. Nevertheless, there are only little scientific studies proving their efficacy. Also, some of them may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions.
2. Apple cider vinegar
The acid in apple cider vinegar is known to be useful in neutralizing the alkalinity of wasp venom. It also helps in reducing the swelling of infected skin. To apply apple cider vinegar on wasp stings, soak a small cotton ball on it. With slight pressure, place it on top of the sting area for a few minutes or until an hour.
3. Meat tenderizer
Meat tenderizers are acidic like vinegar and come in powder, paste, and liquid. Regardless of the form, they can also help in neutralizing the wasp venom and reduce the swelling in the sting area. Mix it with an equal part of water and apply it to infected skin for about 30 minutes, depending on the severity of the sting.
How to Use Tobacco on a Wasp Sting?
Believe it or not, cigarette tobacco can treat a wasp sting (and bee sting) and can help reduce the pain in just a few minutes. This is because tobacco juice is easily absorbed through the skin. Therefore, inflammation is reduced quickly.
Here are the simple steps on how to treat a wasp sting with tobacco:
Step 1: Remove the tobacco from the cigarette.
Step 2: Slightly wet a small amount of tobacco. Squeeze the tobacco a bit to make it juicy.
Step 3: Compress the wet tobacco on the sting area. You can hold the tobacco for a few seconds.
Step 4: Cover the infected area for a few minutes. If the wasp sting is not severe, the pain and redness will be gone.
Note: Tobacco is more effective in treating bee stings than in wasp stings. This is because nicotine is strongly alkaline that can neutralize the acidic bee venom. On the other hand, wasp stings are mostly alkaline in nature.
What Is the Best Home Remedy for Wasp Sting?
Most of the treatments for wasp stings mentioned above have no scientific studies to prove that they are indeed effective. Some of them may also cause harm if applied in huge quantities. But so far, the best home remedy for wasp stings is soap and water. The wound should be cleaned immediately.
Wasp stings are not usually dangerous, especially to people without allergic reactions to stings. But still, they can be very painful and should not be ignored. Also, remember that wasp stings are alkaline while bee stings are acidic. This is why some treatments for bee stings may not be effective in treating wasp stings.
List of Sources
Insect Sting Allergies. (2018). American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
Mussen, E. C. (2011). Bee and Wasp Stings. University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources.
Hahn, J., Jesse, L., Liesch, P. (2020). Wasps and bees. University of Minnesota Extension.