What Is the Best Treatment for Yellow Jacket Stings?

Reviewed on 12/22/2020

What is the best treatment for yellow jacket stings?

Wash a yellow jacket sting with soap and warm water and then use home remedies to relieve pain and swelling.
Wash a yellow jacket sting with soap and warm water and then use home remedies to relieve pain and swelling.

Wasp or yellow jacket stings can cause severe pain, and sometimes serious allergic reactions. Some people suggest applying a freshly cut onion or toothpaste to the affected area. The yellow jacket’s aggressiveness makes it one of the more hazardous types of insects. They are a type of ground-nesting wasp. They are often confused with bees.  However, yellow jackets are much more aggressive and most reported bee stings may be yellow jacket stings. They may leave behind a chemical that marks you as the enemy, inciting other yellow jackets to attack. Hence, it is recommended that you leave the location where you were stung  immediately to decrease the risk of getting multiple stings.

Normally, yellow jackets do not leave a stinger. If you notice a stinger, use a straight edge, such as a credit card or flat edge of a butter knife, to scrape it away. Do not squeeze your skin to get the stinger out because you will release more venom into your system and it will make the sting worse. Before treating the affected area, make sure to remove the stinger from your skin. Leaving the stinger in may cause severe pain and lead to an  infection. If you are stung by a yellow jacket, here are the steps to follow

  • Wash the sting site with soap and water.
  • Apply an ice pack to the affected area to reduce the pain.
  • Apply a topical antihistamine to the affected area.
  • If the topical application doesn't help, take an oral antihistamine to further relieve any pain, swelling or itching. Benadryl is usually recommended.
  • Take ibuprofen to help relieve pain. This will also help with inflammation. Tylenol is also an option that can help with pain.
  • Over-the-counter sting medications, such as swabs or ointments, may also be used to treat itching and pain.
  • If you are allergic to yellow jacket stings, always carry an EpiPen for emergency use.

Seek medical help immediately if

  • You have been stung more than 10 times.
  • You have been stung in the mouth or throat.
  • You have any symptoms including difficulty breathing or speaking, swelling in the mouth or throat, wheezing, confusion, weakness, hives or rash or tightness in the chest.

Home remedies

  • Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a little water to make a paste and apply it to the area of the sting for 5 to 10 minutes to help relieve pain and itching. It will also help reduce swelling and inflammation. After the mixture has been on your skin, gently rinse the area with warm water. After a few hours, you can repeat the process, if necessary.
  • Apply raw honey directly to the sting to help neutralize venom.This will also help reduce pain and itching. Leave the honey on for 30 minutes and wash it off with warm water.
  • Whether you have white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, both can help reduce inflammation. Dilute vinegar with water in equal parts. Soak a cotton ball in the solution and place it on the area. Secure it with a Band-Aid and leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes. After removing the cotton ball, let the area air dry.
  • Mix a small amount of activated charcoal powder with water, apply it to the sting and secure with a Band-Aid. Leave it on for an hour. You can repeat this process a few times or until the pain subsides. Charcoal helps to draw the venom out of the sting and helps with swelling and itching.
  • Dab ammonia on the area to reduce itching.
  • Soak in a bath with Epsom salts to reduce pain, swelling and itching.
  • Apply a paste of meat tenderizer, which contains enzymes that help neutralize the venom.
  • A salt paste will also help to draw the venom out.
  • Split the leaf of a leek and apply it to the surface of your skin.
  • Other remedies may include applying neem oil, an ointment containing the herb comfrey and orange juice.

Rarely, a wound may become infected. Yellow jackets may carry anaerobic bacteria on their stingers due to visiting landfills. Frequent scratching or improper initial treatment of the sting site can also cause infection. Infected stings need to be seen by a doctor and treated with antibiotics. Symptoms of a secondary bacterial infection at the sting site include

  • A large local reaction that can measure 10 inches or more in diameter
  • Increased pain at the sting site
  • Increased swelling and redness at the sting site
  • Drainage of pus from the sting site
  • Presence of fever
  • Symptoms last more than one to two days or get worse during that time

Treatment

It is always wise to keep medical supplies ready in case you get stung by a yellow jacket, wasp or bee. The following are a must haves for any first aid kit

  • Alcohol
  • Peroxide
  • Antihistamine tablets
  • EpiPen

Consult the doctor immediately for further treatment including antibiotics.

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

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