Treating Wasp Stings

Wasps inspire fear that’s completely out of proportion with the small size of these flying insects. But wasp stings can be painful. And in the case of people with severe allergies, they can even be dangerous. So it’s wise not to take these pests lightly.

When you work in the pest control field, wasp stings are part of summer. Especially if, like me, you’re not a fan of donning protective gear if you think you can get away without it. I generally pick up between 10 and 20 stings each summer. While painful, I’m not allergic, so the stings are no more than a minor nuisance. And in the process of dealing with so many stings, I’ve learned a trick or two about how to relieve the pain.

So if you receive a sting or two this summer, follow the steps below for some instant relief.

Wash With Soap And Water

As soon as you feel that sting, head for the nearest sink. It’s the venom that a wasp sting contains that makes it hurt so badly. The quicker you can begin washing the site of the injury, the less venom will enter your skin. Besides, cleaning the wound reduces the chances of a secondary infection that is always a risk whenever your skin gets pierced. Simple soap and water can go a long way to relieving the symptoms of a wasp sting.

Apply A Cold Pack

The initial pain of a wasp sting can be surprisingly intense. But often, what comes after can be even worse. The heat and swelling that many people experience at the site of the sting is the body’s antivenom reaction going to work. This can cause your skin to feel stretched and uncomfortable.

The best way to prevent this is to press an ice pack to the affected area. Be sure to wrap the ice in a towel first to protect your skin. If you don’t have an ice pack, a bag of frozen vegetables will do the job, or some ice cubes wrapped in a kitchen towel. Keep the area iced for 15 minutes, then remove the ice for least five minutes before reapplying if necessary.

Use Vinegar

Humans have been dealing with wasps since the day we emerged on this planet. So it’s no surprise that a few home remedies have been developed in that time to deal with this unpleasant sensation. One of the more effective ones is to use white vinegar.

Remember high school science class? Wasp stings are heavily alkaline, which is what gives the venom its potent sting. You can neutralize this venom by using the acid in the vinegar. Soak a cotton pad in vinegar and press it to the wound, holding it there for several minutes to let the vinegar do its work.

Avoid scratching

This one is easier said than done. In some people, including me, the initial pain and burning of a wasp’s sting is soon replaced by an intense itch in the affected area(similar to, but usually more intense than bed bug bites). This itching can last for days. But try to avoid scratching the wound. Irritating the surface of your skin will provide only temporary relief, and will leave you open to further infection. It might be a good idea to apply a bandage to help keep you from reflexively scratching yourself.

Use Chamomile Lotion

Chamomile lotion is another good treatment for the itching caused by a wasp sting. Readily available at pharmacists and drugstores, this combination of naturally occurring minerals can provide instant relief for itches and skin irritations.


Many anti-allergy medicines, such as Benadryl, are available without a prescription. In one of those quirks of nature, it’s not really the wasp sting itself that causes a lot of the swelling, itchiness, and general discomfort that follows. Instead, it’s the body’s histamine reaction trying to prevent infection. Sometimes, this histamine reaction can go too far and cause more problems than it prevents. Antihistamines help to moderate this histamine reaction and relieve some of the side effects, such as swelling and itching.

Hydrocortisone Cream

If you’ve tried the remedies above and nothing seems to be working, you may have better results with hydrocortisone cream. This medication is often available over-the-counter and provides quick and effective relief from itching and swelling. However, it shouldn’t be your first resort. Long-term use of this product can cause thinning of the skin, so it’s better to avoid it unless you really need it.

Allergic Reactions

There’s a difference between not enjoying wasp stings and actually being allergic to them. In the case of people with allergies, the reaction to a wasp sting can be much more severe. People with allergies may experience much more extreme swelling and redness at the site of a wasp sting. This reaction may get worse for two or three days following the sting. In some cases, nausea and vomiting can also occur.

Those unfortunate people with severe allergies may even go into anaphylaxis. This is a condition in which the body goes into shock, and it usually immediately follows the sting. It can even be life-threatening, since the intense swelling can close airways and cause people to suffocate. This is a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Those who are prone to these kinds of reactions should always carry an EpiPen with them to administer medication on the spot. Fortunately, only 3% of adults are allergic to wasp stings.

Keeping Wasps Away

Want to keep wasps away from your house? Read my article on just how to do this here:

The Pest Advice — Dan Crosfield

Written by

My name is Dan Crosfield and I’m a certified entomologist, pest control consultant and lover of BBQ.

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