Wasps are winged insects that belong to the suborder Apocrita and order Hymenoptera. Those of you who have ever been stung by a wasp would know how much pain it can cause. Unlike bees that leave behind the stinger (a modified egg-laying tube or ovipositor, which is connected to their venom glands) in the body of the victim and die after stinging, wasps can sting the victim multiple times. Under such circumstances, the victim is most likely to experience symptoms such as pain, swelling, itching and redness around the area that has been stung. While a local reaction to a sting can be tackled with the help of simple home remedies, in some cases, a severe allergic or anaphylactic reaction may occur, thereby turning the stinging incident into a medical emergency.
One's reaction to a sting may depend on various factors. The intensity of pain and swelling could depend on factors such as the location of sting or the number of times one has been stung. Since wasps live in colonies and often attack in groups, such incidents can be averted if wasp nests are removed. If one ever gets stung by a wasp, here are some instructions that you can follow.
Remove the Stinger: The first step involves getting rid of the stinger. Generally a wasp loses its stinger in case of multiple stinging. If a wasp has stung you multiple times, make sure that you have its stinger removed immediately. You can use a nail file, key or a flat object such as a credit card to scrape out the stinger. You could also purchase a first-aid kit from the pharmacy. Pulling or plucking out the stinger can cause the venom to spread, so refrain from doing so. Also make sure that you don't break the stinger. After removing the stinger, wash the area using warm water and an antiseptic soap. Wipe the area with a soft towel.
Get Rid of Venom: If you have been stung by a wasp, you must take immediate steps to draw out the venom. In order to do so, you could try simple home remedies. For instance, you could soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and apply it on the affected area. You could also apply a fresh slice of lemon on the affected area. Rubbing a slice of onion is another tried-and-tested method of removing the venom. Placing a copper coin on the stung area will also provide relief. You can also apply a paste of water and meat tenderizer on the affected area. The presence of papain in the tenderizer will help in breaking down the protein present in the venom, thereby alleviating pain and swelling to a great extent. Applying a paste of baking soda and water on the affected area is a simple yet effective home remedy. If none of these items are available, you could apply a moist mud paste on the affected area for about thirty minutes. This will help in extracting the venom.
Apply Ice Packs: The best way to reduce the swelling is to apply an ice pack. Don't apply the ice directly on the skin. Wrap it in a clean towel and apply it for 10-15 minutes on the affected area. Apply the ice pack every 2-3 hours. This will surely help in bringing down the swelling and inflammation.
Relief from Itching: The affected area is most likely to swell up and may also feel itchy. Though one may be tempted to scratch the area due to the itching sensation, scratching over it will cause the venom to spread to the surrounding area. One must therefore refrain from scratching over the area. The best way to soothe the irritated skin would be to apply aloe vera gel over it. You could also apply calamine lotion on the affected area. Application of a mud pack may also help in relieving the pain and itching sensation.
Medication: Anti-allergy medicines or antihistamines such as benadryl can be taken to alleviate the allergy symptoms. Since an insect sting can cause a lot of pain, doctors may also prescribe painkillers such as ibuprofen to ease the pain and discomfort. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also help in bringing down the swelling. Application of antibiotic ointments like neosporin can help to prevent the stung area from getting infected.
Hospitalization: You must also watch out for signs of an allergic reaction. If one suffers from severe swelling, nausea, anxiety, disorientation, breathing difficulty or loss of consciousness after being stung by such stinging insects, medical help should be sought immediately. A serious allergic reaction can be fatal which is why family members must immediately take the patient to the hospital on noticing the first signs of an anaphylactic shock. Under such circumstances, oxygen therapy and intravenous administration of fluids and drugs may be required to stabilize the patient's condition. Regular monitoring of the patient is the need of the hour in event of an anaphylactic reaction.
Prevention: It would be best to stay away from nesting area of such stinging insects or have the nests removed. Insects can get attracted to strong odors or bright colors, so dress appropriately and avoid wearing strong perfumes if you are planning to spend time outdoors. If the nesting area of these stinging insects is disturbed, the female wasps instantly react by injecting venom through the stinger.
If one suffers from a local reaction after being stung by a wasp, one can follow these simple remedies to reduce swelling and pain. If one seems to be exhibiting symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, medical assistance must be sought at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.