Do Wasps Sting Or Bite


Moderate and mild reactions to wasp stings can be dealt with at home, by washing the affected area with soap and water to reduce the effect of the venom.

Did a Wasp Sting Me? All About Treatment Options, Allergic Reactions, Home Remedies, and More

Insect bites and stings are so common that nearly everyone experiences one at some point. For the most part, they cause only mild discomfort. Some bites and stings go unnoticed until an itchy bump forms on the skin.

Getting stung by a wasp is a completely different story.

These winged insects are sometimes mistaken for bees, but wasps have a thinner waist and less body hair compared with bees. (1) Despite their differences, one thing they do have in common is their ability to inflict a painful punishment.

The good news is that wasps aren’t always aggressive, and they typically only sting when they feel threatened. (2) If you stay out of their way, they’ll stay out of yours.

On the off chance that you have a run-in with a wasp, here’s what you need to know about wasp sting remedies and sting allergies.

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What Types of Wasps Sting?

There are roughly 20,000 species of wasps, but not all of them sting humans. (2) As with bees, only female wasps have stingers. And unlike honeybees, wasps don’t lose their stingers. This means it’s possible to be stung multiple times by the same wasp. (3)

Four common types of stinging wasps include:

1. Bald-Faced Hornet

Buddy Mays/Alamy

Bald-faced hornets are black and white and about three-quarters of an inch long. (Technically they are wasps and not a type of hornet, despite the name.) They are known to be especially aggressive in protecting their distinctive roundish papery nests, which often hang from trees.

Do not confuse the bald-faced hornet with the European hornet (which is a type of hornet). The European hornet is bigger, measuring closer to 1 inch long. (1) You can identify the European hornet by its reddish-brown head and legs and yellow-and-black striped abdomen (rear end). They nest in the ground, in the hollows of trees, and in spaces inside interior walls. (1) They’re found in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America. (4)

2. Yellow Jacket

Bill Dally/iStock

Host an outdoor barbecue and you’ll likely have a few of these unwanted visitors. Yellow jackets are sometimes confused with hornets and bees, but you can easily identify them by their black-and-yellow-striped abdomen and short legs. These wasps are extremely aggressive and sting more often than other types of wasps. (1,3)

Yellow jackets are active from the spring through late summer, and you can find them around the globe. If you live in the southeastern United States, you may see them in large numbers. (3)

3. Paper Wasp

Andreas Häuslbetz/iStock

You’ll find these wasps throughout the U.S., usually flying around structures. Paper wasps are about a half inch to 1 inch long and identified by their reddish-brown to black body and long legs that hang down when they fly. (5)

Some paper wasps have yellow rings around their abdomen, making them resemble a yellow jacket. All paper wasps are active during the spring, summer, and fall. (3,5)

4. Cicada Killer Wasp

Elliotte Rusty Harold/Shutterstock

This is one of the largest species of wasp in North America — growing up to 1½ inches — and they’re found throughout the U.S. You can distinguish these from other wasps by their mostly black abdomen with whitish markings. (1)

Cicada killer wasps feed on cicadas, another fairly large insect. They rarely sting humans, but will if they feel threatened. (6)

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What Are the Most Common Symptoms of a Wasp Sting?

Wasp stings are venomous, so if one stings you, you’ll know right away. These stings cause a local reaction that can feel like sharp burning in the area of the sting. (7)

Symptoms of a wasp sting include:

  • Pain and burning
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching

Local reactions are mild, and most people don’t need medical attention for wasp stings. ( 8)

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What Does a Wasp Sting Look Like?

What if you didn’t see what stung you? How can you distinguish a wasp sting from other bites and stings?

With a wasp sting, you’re likely to see a small puncture wound at the site of pain and burning. The wound may even have a drop of blood at its center, indicating where the stinger entered your body.

Redness and swelling from mild local reactions improve gradually over hours, whereas a larger local reaction can take up to several days to improve. (9)

Am I Having an Allergic Reaction to a Wasp Sting?

Wasp stings are painful but not usually dangerous. (8) Unless, of course, you have an insect allergy and you’re allergic to wasp venom.

In the case of insect venom allergies, symptoms often develop shortly after a bite or sting — sometimes within minutes. The severity of a reaction varies from person to person, so the venom affects some people only mildly.

Signs of a mild allergic reaction include hives (without difficulty breathing) near the site of the sting as well as on other parts of the body. Some people also experience a slight drop in blood pressure, causing light dizziness. (10)

Because not all allergic reactions are life-threatening, a mild reaction localized to the sting area can usually be treated at home, says Gene Conti, MD, an emergency medicine doctor at ECU Health North Hospital in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.

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When Should You Seek Emergency Medical Attention for a Wasp Sting?

About 50 to 100 people die from bee and wasp stings every year. (1) Insect stings are a common cause of anaphylaxis, so it’s important to recognize symptoms of distress early. (11)

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“Anaphylaxis is the overwhelming response of our immune system. Instead of just a localized rash and itching, blood pressure drops, you pass out, and breathing stops, which can lead to respiratory failure and death,” warns Dr. Conti. “This can all take place in less than a minute.” (1)

If you’re allergic to wasp venom, it’s also important to note that your first exposure to the allergen may produce only a mild reaction. It’s the second and subsequent exposures where you may have an anaphylactic-like reaction to the allergen, says Conti.

Other symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to wasp venom include: (10,11)

  • Swelling of the lips, mouth, or tongue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain

Call 911 immediately if you have a severe reaction to a sting.

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Wasp Sting Treatment: What Do You Do if a Wasp Stings You?

Wasps don’t lose their stingers. So if you’re stung, you don’t have to remove one from your skin.

Some basic care for a wasp sting: (11)

  • Wash the area with soap and water, Conti recommends. Clean the area every day until it heals, to prevent a skin infection.
  • Apply a cold compress to relieve pain and swelling. Wrap the cold pack in a towel and place it on the sting — 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. If you’re stung in the leg or arm, keep this part of your body elevated.
  • Take an antihistamine like Benadryl or Claritin if you have a reaction, says Conti. Carry epinephrine (EpiPen) if you have a history of a severe allergic reaction to wasp venom. Administer immediately after a sting to avoid anaphylaxis, he adds.
  • Use an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce pain.

For a moderate-to-severe allergic reaction, treatment involves stabilizing your health. This may include administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation or oxygen therapy. (11)

If you’ve had an anaphylactic reaction to wasp venom, ask your doctor about allergen-specific immunotherapy to prevent or reduce future reactions.

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Also known as desensitization, this therapy involves injecting your body with larger and larger doses of wasp venom in an effort to change how your immune system responds when exposed to the allergen. (10)

You may start with weekly injections for a few months, followed by one injection about every three months as maintenance. (9)

What Is Safe to Put on a Wasp Sting?

To relieve itching from a wasp sting, apply a topical anti-itch cream over the puncture. Options include hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. (11) Use as directed.

Keep the sting covered with a bandage if you like. Wearing a bandage prevents clothing and jewelry from rubbing against the sting, which can cause further irritation and itching.

Home Remedies for Treating Wasp Stings

A few home remedies can also provide relief from a wasp sting.

“Apply an alkaline solution of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), about 1 tablespoon to 1 pint of water,” says Conti.

Creating a meat tenderizer paste and applying it to a sting may also provide some relief because of the tenderizer’s ability to neutralize the venom, he adds. (7)

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If you don’t have baking soda or meat tenderizer in the house, other concoction can be quickly mixed up.

For example, applying a small amount of apple cider vinegar to the sting (mixed 50/50 with water) helps restore your skin’s natural pH level, easing itching and irritation, says Maureen Roland, RN, managing director at Banner Poison and Drug Information Center in Chandler, Arizona. (12)

Because insect bites and stings can cause a histamine-reaction to the area, she also suggests applying aloe vera gel directly to the sting.

“The gel has antibacterial properties as well as an anti-inflammatory effect due to the natural salicylates and inhibition of histamine formation,” she explains. (13)

Similarly, oatmeal has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent skin protector and soother for itchy stings, according to Roland. (14)

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How to Avoid a Wasp Sting and What to Do if You See a Wasp

Wasp stings can be painful and cause a reaction ranging from hives to breathing trouble. The good news is that many wasps only sting when they feel threatened. So if you don’t provoke them or come near their home, you’ll probably have nothing to worry about.

It’s also important to note that reactions to wasp stings can vary. Not having an allergic response to a wasp sting on your first exposure is quite common. Subsequent stings can be hazardous for your health, so treat each one carefully and be alert for the warning signs of anaphylaxis.

Keep an open eye for wasp nests around your home. If you find a nest near an entryway or an area where your children play, don’t attempt to remove or destroy it yourself. Call a pest control company to have it professionally removed.

Does a Wasp Bite or Sting?

Wasps only sting people in self-defense and they bite only when building their nests and when they catch prey. When stung, act quickly to avoid serious issue.

Wasps are individuals from the order Hymenoptera, which additionally incorporates ants, bees and sawflies. Numerous individuals confuse wasps and bees. It’s really simple to differentiate the two, because bees look entirely bushy and wasps don’t. Wasps are known to have biting mouthparts and antennae with 12 or 13 portions. They have wings as well and their abdomens are connected to their thorax by a thin petiole, or a “waist”. Many people argue about the way wasps attack human being.

Do Wasps Sting or Bite People?

The question has confused many people. Wasp just sting, and repeated stings can be caused by the Yellow jacket wasps.

Female bees and wasps are the only insects that can sting. Males do not have the egg-laying ovipositor that is altered into a stinger as in female insects. Different from bees, some female wasps can sting an objective various times because their stinger does not tumble off after use.

Do Wasps Bite?

Sometimes wasp stings are confused to be a wasp bite. A wasp does bite indeed, however, it only bites when catching a prey or utilizing their mouths when making their nests; a wasp does not bite people when attacking. Wasps use sting as a way of defending themselves from creatures that may pose threat to them.

What Happens When a Wasp Stings?

Wasp stings are commonly experienced, particularly during the warmer months when people spend a lot of time outside. Wasp stings can be uncomfortable, however, a great number of people recuperate rapidly and without complications.

Local reactions or systematic (body-wide) allergic reactions are results of bee and wasp stings. Common reactions to a sting are localized pain, redness, and swelling.

How to Treat Wasp Stings

Do wasps sting or bite? They only sting, and you should then know the ways to treat wasp sting.

Mild to Moderate Reactions

Moderate and mild reactions to wasp stings can be dealt with at home, by washing the affected area with soap and water to reduce the effect of the venom.

  • Application of the cold pack is done on the wounded part to reduce pain and swelling.
  • The wound must be kept clean and if possible covered with bandage to prevent further infection.
  • In case the itching and skin irritation persists, hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can be used to prevent this.
  • Colloidal oatmeal and baking soda can also be used to soothe the skin and their application should be done during bathing or they can be mixed with the medicated skin creams.
  • Wasp stings pains can be managed by using over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. Itching can also be reduced by using antihistamine drugs, such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine. To avert any possible side effects, such as irritation in the stomach or drowsiness, all medications should be administered as prescribed.

What If There’s Stinger in Skin?

First note that a wasp will not leave their stingers behind unless they have been swatted and the stinger breaks off. The first thing to do if a stinger from the wasp is still lodged in the skin is to remove it. A blunt, flat object like a butter knife, a credit card, or your fingernail is the ideal thing to use when dislodging a stinger. It is advisable not to squeeze the stinger because this may release more venom.

It is recommended to not use tweezers while removing stinger. They are only applicable where other methods have failed. In such cases, a lot of care has to be taken to avoid squeezing of the venom sac further.

Severe Reactions/ Anaphylactic Reaction

Extreme allergic reactions to wasp stings need quick medical attention. While waiting for the doctor’s arrival, one should take the following steps in the meantime:

  • Enquire from the victim whether they are carrying with them an epinephrine auto injector EpiPen or Auvi-Q, for the allergic treatment. Or if you are stung and have EpiPen, inject in the correct manner by yourself.
  • If they request for your assistance to use an autoinjector, do so by using the correct procedure. Press the autoinjector against the thigh of the victim and ensure it remains held in place for a while.
  • Do not allow them to ingest or drink anything while administering the treatment. Instead, cover them with a blanket and remove the tight clothing if any.
  • In case the person is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn them on the side to avoid choking.
  • If the victim exhibits any signs of reduced circulation, such as difficulties in breathing, or coughing, immediately begin the CPR.

Emergency medical staff may commence treatment at the scene and proceed with the treatment in the hospital. Ways to treat extreme allergic reactions to wasp stings can include:

  • Supplementary epinephrine to cool your immune system
  • Application of intravenous cortisone to reduce swelling
  • CPR should be done when someone experience difficulty in breathing
  • Antihistamine medications and steroids are some of the emergency treatments
  • Breathing tube insertion is also one of the emergency treatments to enhance oxygen supply
  • Intravenous liquids and medicines to reinforce the functionality of cardiovascular is sometimes a necessity.

Doctors may do prescriptions of an allergy kit that contains self-administered epinephrine or Epipen to persons vulnerable to extreme allergic reaction. This also includes persons with wasp or bee stings allergy. The treatments have proven in many instances to be lifesaving. It is advisable, therefore, to possess these kits always in immediate environments like homes, cars and at the office, as well as understanding the mechanism to operate them.

Persons with past records of extreme reactions to wasp stings should apply Immunotherapy as the best treatment. Immunotherapy is a sequence of shots commonly known as allergy shots that are made to give exposure at low dose to sting poison. This kind of treatment is known to significantly lower the chances of imminent severe allergic reactions.

When to See a Doctor

The following are the symptoms that require immediate call of emergency number for help:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Inflammation/swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat
  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Hives
  • Exhibition of cramps, nausea, or vomiting

More Facts: What Are the Types of Wasps?

Do wasps sting or bite? They do sting but don’t bite. The population of wasp species is recorded to be over 25,000 in the world. Among these, the most common ones are hornet and yellow jacket.

  • These wasps live in colonies or groups and are commonly found in temperate climates.
  • Yellow jackets have yellow and black stripes in their abdomen and they normally form their nests underground.
  • Hornets have black markings on their head and thorax with some yellow markings as well. Their nests are paper like and are attached to trees, shrubs or sometimes buildings.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population []; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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