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Treating and Preventing a Wasp, Hornet, or Yellow Jacket sting

Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets sting as a means of self-defense. Their stingers contain venom that can cause mild irritation to some and trigger fatal allergic reactions in others.

A close-up image of a wasp on a person's hand.

Don’t let the fear of getting stung get in the way of your outdoor fun. Find out how to help protect your family from wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket stings—and learn what to do if you or a loved one gets stung.

How to treat wasp stings

A person's red and swollen arm from a wasp sting.

If you get stung, move to a safe area to avoid more stings and wash with soap and water as soon as you can. If the stinger is lodged in your skin, carefully remove it.

For mild reactions

For mild wasp sting reactions

  • Apply a cold compress to help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Apply 0.5 or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or a baking soda paste to the stung area.

  • Take an antihistamine to reduce itching.

The signs and symptoms of a bite or sting disappear in a day or two. However, some people experience delayed reactions to wasp stings. If the symptoms worsen or persist, please call your doctor.

For severe reactions

If you experience any of the following reactions to a sting, please seek immediate medical attention!

  • Intense pain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling of the lips, eyelids, or throat

  • Dizziness, faintness, or confusion

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Hives

  • Nausea, cramps, or vomiting

Help Prevent Wasp Stings

Comparative images of a Yellow jacket, a Paper wasp and a Hornet.

Paper wasp vs. Yellow jacket vs. Hornet

Paper wasps often don’t sting unless their nests are disturbed, but when they do, they can be very aggressive. On the other hand, yellow jackets and hornets can sting without being provoked at all.

Don’t Get Stung, Get Smart
  • Keep food covered if eating outside.

  • Be careful when eating fruits and sugary food outside.

  • Cover up sugary beverages when not drinking them. Yellow jackets are notorious for crawling into drink cans unnoticed.

  • Don’t go barefoot, wasps often make their nests in the ground.

  • Wasps and hornets feel threatened by strong vibrations. Avoid power mowing or trimming close to nests and hives.

  • Seal trash cans tightly and keep garbage cans away from eating areas.

  • Tuck in your shirt. Dress in light colored, close-fitting clothing, with long pants and sleeves.

  • If a foraging wasp is bothering you, don’t swat at it. Just move away slowly.

 
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Help Avoid Multiple Stings

Honeybees (beneficial bugs necessary for pollination) normally die after stinging, but wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets often survive and can sting again. It’s important to leave the area immediately to avoid being stung more than once. After a yellow jacket stings its victim, it releases an “alarm pheromone” that excites nearby yellow jackets to attack as well.

 

How to Help Keep Stinging Insects Away

To help avoid getting stung in the first place, the best defense is a good offense. For tips on how to help keep stinging insects away from your home and safely removing and treating wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket nests, check out How to Get Rid of Wasps

FIND SOLUTIONS FOR WASPS

Help protect your family and keep pesky wasps from buzzing around your home with Raid® wasp products.