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Wasp stings: here’s what helps with swelling, itching and other reactions

Wasp stings are usually harmless, but they can be life-threatening in certain circumstances. We’ll explain how to treat stings at home and when it’s time to visit your doctor.

Treating wasp stings effectively

Wasps are extremely valuable for our ecosystem. But they can also be some of the most annoying critters around at times – like when we want to eat outside in peace, for example. So, what can we do to protect ourselves from wasps? And what can help when we need to treat a wasp sting? Our health tip gives you all the key information in one place.

Why do wasps sting?

Wasps usually only sting when they feel threatened. This is why it’s important to keep as calm as possible and avoid any sudden movements when a wasp is flying around you.

How do you treat a wasp sting?

It’s best to clean and cool the skin around the sting site. Cooling gels like Fenistil and over-the-counter painkillers or antihistamines can provide relief if the site begins to hurt or swells. Visit your doctor to discuss further treatment options if you’ve been stung multiple times at once, have been stung in the mouth or throat, or are experiencing an allergic reaction.

How can you protect yourself if you want to eat outdoors?

Whether it’s meat for the barbecue or a sweet treat, wasps just can’t get enough of protein and sugar. So if you’re eating outside, try to keep your food covered as best you can. You should also avoid drinking from bottles and cans if you can’t see what’s in them – there could be a wasp inside. Natural wasp repellents can also help, including clove oil, lavender or citrus scents, either in the form of scented candles, fragrance oils or a few lemon wedges.

Wasp stings can be really painful, but they’re rarely dangerous. The skin around the sting site usually turns red and swells up, and the swelling can continue to spread over the next few hours. Itching is another typical reaction. Avoid scratching, though, as this could further irritate your skin. You may also experience other local reactions, including flushing, a burning sensation or numbness around the affected site. The symptoms usually clear up on their own within a day or two.

Wasp stings can cause some people to experience an allergic reaction. This can manifest as:

  • Difficulty breathing, a shortness of breath or a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Dizziness or drowsiness
  • Swelling of the face, lips or neck
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Skin rash that spreads beyond the sting site

Please seek medical help immediately in such cases. Severe allergic reactions can result in what’s known as anaphylactic shock and can be life-threatening. Anaphylactic shock (or ‘anaphylaxis’) is a rare but massive and sudden allergic reaction that can cause an acute drop in blood pressure, and even circulatory failure. It is vital that you contact emergency services immediately at the first signs of anaphylactic shock.

Yes, even people who aren’t allergic to wasp stings should seek medical advice in certain situations. This is particularly true if someone is stung in the mouth or throat, as swelling in these areas can block the airways. It’s also advisable to visit your doctor if you are stung more than once at the same time. You should also seek medical treatment if the symptoms persist or become worse, or if the sting becomes infected.

It’s important to keep a close eye on how your body reacts in this situation. Seek medical attention immediately if the swelling rapidly increases or if you experience severe pain, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or any other symptoms associated with a severe allergic reaction. If no severe symptoms occur, we recommend keeping the sting site cool.

Immediately cooling the sting site can help reduce pain, swelling and itching. To do this, place a cold compress or ice cube inside a cloth or towel and carefully apply it to the affected area. Other common home remedies for treating wasp stings include toothpaste, honey, baking powder or baking soda mixed with water to form a paste. Aloe vera gels or a few drops of lavender oil can also provide soothing relief, as can special heat-based bite and sting healers. And last but not least: rub a bit of saliva onto the wasp sting or place a piece of onion on the sting site.

Itching tends to be at its worst just after the sting is delivered and then gradually fades. The itching sensation can last anywhere between a few hours and a few days. Seek medical advice from your doctor if the itching doesn’t ease or gets worse, or if you start to experience other symptoms. Medical treatment may be required in these cases.

Wasp venom differs from other insects’ venom in terms of its chemical composition. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to tell wasp stings apart from the stings of other insects based purely on the appearance of the sting site. Both bee stings and wasp stings can cause redness, swelling and pain at the sting site. We recommend arranging an appointment with your doctor in all instances if you know that you are allergic.

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