How to Treat Wasp Stings Using Home First Aid

Sep 21, 2009Updated 2 months ago
Waving wasps away may result in a painful sting

This article does not cover emergency anaphylactic shock treatment which requires immediate care and attention. This piece is to provide a range of home-based wasp sting remedies for those who do not have an allergic reaction but will still find that being stung by a wasp is uncomfortable and possibly painful.

To find emergency treatment on anaphylactic shock treatment, go to anaphylaxis.org.

Why is Wasp Venom Painful

Surprisingly there is less known about wasp venom than there is about bee venom, and tracking down the cause of the pain of a wasp sting has been elusive. Although the chemical constituents can be identified, the cause of the pain is less easy to pinpoint; however there appears to be some correlation between catecholamines and the discomfort of wasp venom. Catecholamines contain adrenaline and noradrenaline which are normally transported in the blood stream and it may be these constituents released into skin tissue that cause the pain.

Treating Wasp Stings

Firstly, check for sure that the wasp sting hasn't been left in, in which case just use the edge of a credit card drawn firmly across the skin, or a pair of tweezers, to extract it. Treating wasp stings usually just involves treating the effects of the venom, as the wasp does not generally leave its sting behind as a bee will do unless the wasp has been swatted and had its sting snapped off.

Apply some ice in a towel, or a small pack of frozen peas, to the stung area. Never put ice directly onto the skin as there is the possibility of skin burn. Leave this pack of ice - or peas - on the skin for about ten minutes. The intense cold will reduce blood flow to the area which in turn will lead to a reduction in the reddening and defensive reaction. Take the ice pack off for about five minutes and then reapply.

Ibuprofen or paracetamol can ease the discomfort, but always check the information leaflet for contraindications.

If the area becomes irritated and itchy, do not scratch. This will only make matters worse by further damaging the skin structures where the sting has entered, and is likely to disperse the wasp venom further into the surrounding tissues. Scratching may also lead to broken skin and infection, which will make treatment and healing more complicated. The area should not be squeezed or pinched either, even though this can bring temporary relief for other types of skin irritation - the less chance the wasp venom has of leaching into the surrounding tissues the better.

Itching can be eased by applying some calamine lotion frequently throughout the day. This is a harmless skin treatment often prescribed for itchiness caused by rashes as well as skin conditions such as chicken pox so it is well documented as being effective.

An extra treatment for itchiness is an oral antihistamine which will reach the inflamed area through the bloodstream and tackle the itchiness from the inside. If calamine is also being used this will be an effective and benign two-pronged approach method of dealing with the irritation from the wasp venom.

Some people find that Benadryl topical applications will work, and as this is a treatment specifically for stings this may well be a useful thing to keep in the medicine cabinet.

A Few Natural Home Remedies for Wasp Stings

  1. Baking soda mixed with a little water to form a paste and then applied to the wasp sting area is a useful remedy for easing the irritation. A small dressing can be applied and secured with tape to keep the baking powder paste in place. This is useful at night when the warmth of the bed can make any skin irritation worse.
  2. An application of a paste of water and meat tenderiser is is a popular treatment and works because the papain in the tenderiser breaks down the proteins, one of the main constituents of wasp venom. This is best applied and then kept in place with a small dressing to avoid it being rubbed off.
  3. Pure aloe vera gel is another natural method of cooling and soothing the sting area. Aloe vera is known universally as a wonderful healing skin treatment and it contains no harsh chemicals, additives or medications.
  4. The application of mud to the stung area is an American Indian treatment which works by drawing the venom out of the skin in the same way that a clay face mask draws impurities out from the skin of the face. This needs be nothing more elaborate than mud from the garden. Leave for 10-15 minutes to allow the mud to dry completely.

Further home remedies include the following:

  • the inside of a cut onion to rub over the wasp sting site.
  • white or cider vinegar applied with a piece of cotton wool.
  • a copper penny. Placed on a wasp sting this apparently reduces the swelling, redness and irritation and has something to do with the copper content of the coin reacting favourably with the body's own chemical makeup.

If after using these remedies the irritation persists or worsens, or the redness spreads, do seek medical advice. The above home first aid measures are very basic and are for anyone who has no out of the ordinary major reaction to insect stings and bites. If there is any doubt ask for a doctor's or pharmacist's opinion.

If you found this article useful you may be interested in The Life Cycle of the Wasp as a fascinating overview of one of the garden's most useful predators.