Wasp Sting – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


wasp sting is usually painful but harmless. It only becomes problematic for allergy sufferers. The wasp venom can trigger an anaphylactic shock in them , which in the worst case can be fatal.

What is a wasp sting?

Wasps belong to the insects, more precisely to the hymenoptera. They live together in large states and are distributed worldwide. Like hornets or bees, wasps have a barbed venomous stinger that can easily penetrate human skin.

When threatened or disturbed, they sting and inject the venom into the skin, causing swelling, redness, and pain. A wasp sting is usually painful but harmless. Wasp stings only become dangerous after several hundred stings.

However, people with wasp allergies can develop stronger symptoms, which in the worst case can be dangerous with a single wasp sting. Anaphylactic shock can be life-threatening. Wasp stings in the mouth and throat area can also be dangerous because the airways can swell.


Wasps sting when they feel disturbed or threatened. Since they do not spurn human food such as cakes or sausages, especially in late summer, they seek human proximity and often become very pushy.

Wasps also like to eat fallen fruit, so that in late summer and autumn there are also many wasps on the ground. Unlike bees, wasps can sting and inject venom into the wound as often as they like. That is why they are more aggressive and sting faster than bees. If the wasp venom gets into the human skin, it causes redness, swelling and pain.

The severity of the reaction depends on the amount of poison and the site of the puncture, and therefore varies greatly. In allergy sufferers, the immune system reacts excessively to the poison that has penetrated and triggers a reaction that can range from mild general reactions or increased swelling to anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A wasp sting causes a burning pain at the site of the sting. However, depending on how much venom was injected, this may wear off after a few minutes. The reaction is usually strongest about two to three days after the wasp sting.

The wasp venom is only life-threatening for humans after several hundred stings, and yet a single sting can lead to a life-threatening situation, especially for allergy sufferers . The main symptom of a wasp sting is severe itching around the site of the sting and significant swelling .

Anyone who is allergic to wasp venom should see a doctor immediately. In these patients, a wasp sting can not only be accompanied by severe swelling and reddening , but also shortness of breath or severe circulatory problems are common symptoms. Under certain circumstances, it can even lead to anaphylactic shock, which is accompanied by tachycardia and/or unconsciousness and can even lead to death.

It may happen that the sting of the wasp is still in the puncture site. Unlike bees, wasps do not lose their stingers. So it is possible that multiple stings are caused by just one wasp.

Diagnosis & History

Diagnosis of a wasp sting is usually through direct observation. If there is no allergy, a wasp sting is comparatively harmless. The skin around the bite is painful and swollen.

The swelling is often most severe on the second or third day and only subsides after a few days. A wasp sting is usually not dangerous. The venom is not strong enough to actually be dangerous to humans. The situation is different for people with wasp venom allergies. They show a much stronger reaction in the first few hours after the sting (usually very early).

Severe swelling, headaches , nausea or large-scale skin reactions are possible. Anaphylactic shock can be life-threatening. In this circulatory shock , the blood pressure drops so massively that vital organs are no longer adequately supplied with blood. Complete circulatory failure and then death can result if life-saving drugs are not given quickly.


In most cases, a single wasp sting is uncomfortable and painful, but rather harmless and rarely leads to complications. The situation is different if the wasp accidentally gets into the mouth with a drink and bites the mouth or throat. The sting causes the tissue in the airways to swell rapidly, causing life-threatening shortness of breath.

If medical attention is not sought as soon as possible, there is a risk of death from suffocation. The risk of complications increases with the number of stitches. Children can be more sensitive than adults. It’s best to stay calm and refrain from lashing out around wasps, as they’re more likely to sting if they feel threatened.

Wasp stings are particularly dangerous for people who are allergic to the wasp venom. One sting can be enough to trigger life-threatening anaphylactic shock. If someone reacts to a wasp sting with dizziness, shortness of breath, feelings of anxiety and a racing heart, an emergency doctor must be called immediately.

People who know they are allergic should always carry an emergency kit with them so that they can react quickly in an emergency. In the event of a state of shock, however, an ambulance should always be called.

When should you go to the doctor?

In most cases, a wasp sting is not a reason to see a doctor. It heals on its own within a few days or a week, and the initial pain, while uncomfortable, is harmless. Likewise, the redness and swelling are not a cause for concern.

However, people who are allergic to wasp venom should call an ambulance immediately if they experience symptoms after the sting that go beyond swelling and pain at the site of the sting. This also applies if the symptoms are only mild. After all, the symptoms, which affect circulation and breathing, among other things, can worsen in allergy sufferers some time after the sting. Even people who have no known wasp venom allergy but show symptoms of one should see a doctor.

Wasp stings that do not heal should also be examined by a family doctor or a dermatologist . Stitches in sensitive parts of the body, such as the eye or throat, sometimes require medical treatment. However, this depends on how bad the pain and swelling are after the bite.

Treatment & Therapy

A common wasp sting should be cooled as quickly as possible to keep the swelling low and relieve the pain. In the event of an allergic reaction, emergency medication must be given immediately.

Depending on the severity, three different drugs are usually used: antihistamines , corticosteroids , and adrenaline . These medicines are contained in a so-called emergency kit that allergy sufferers are prescribed by their doctor and should carry with them at all times. If severe allergic reactions occur or if adrenaline has to be injected from the emergency kit, emergency medical treatment is required. If there are signs of shock ( e.g., sweating , nausea, and a flat pulse), the patient should be placed in a supine position with their legs elevated.

This allows blood to flow from the legs back to the upper part of the body where the vital organs are located. In the long run, the risk of an allergic reaction to wasp venom can be reduced by immunotherapy . Over a period of three to five years, the immune system is repeatedly confronted with the smallest amounts of the allergy-triggering wasp venom in order to get used to it.


The risk of a wasp sting can be reduced by taking certain precautions. Aggressive movements, such as wagging or hitting the wasps, should be avoided. Allergy sufferers should take further precautionary measures, for example not consuming any sweet drinks or sweet food outdoors, avoiding fallen fruit and possibly avoiding long skirts or wide sleeves so that no wasps can get caught there. In addition, allergy sufferers should always carry an emergency kit with them. This is prescribed by the doctor and can save life in the event of anaphylactic shock.


For people with an allergy to wasp venom, it is extremely important to keep as far away from these insects as possible. Caution is advised, especially in late summer, when the wasps are particularly active. Grilled meat, sweet foods and sweet drinks are very attractive to these insects. Allergy sufferers should therefore be extremely careful when eating outdoors.

It is also advisable to stay away from waste bins in public spaces such as swimming pools, parks or rest areas. Simple home remedies often help to actively ward off wasps: Wasps find the smell of lemon or orange slices studded with cloves extremely unpleasant. Tomato plants, lavender and basil also act as a deterrent to the insects.

Inside the house, insect nets attached to the windows help protect against the wasps. People with a known wasp allergy should not leave the house in summer without an emergency kit. The emergency kit contains three medications: an antihistamine, which ensures rapid swelling and reduces the allergic reaction; a cortisone preparation, which also has a decongestant effect, and an adrenaline pre-filled syringe, which stabilizes the circulatory system if necessary. Those affected should definitely familiarize themselves with these medications in advance so that they can treat a wasp sting within a few minutes in an emergency.

You can do that yourself

A suitable home remedy to relieve pain, swelling and redness after a wasp sting is cooling. An ice cube will help. A cooling pad that is placed on the puncture site for a few minutes is also suitable. Human saliva is also suitable as an immediate measure after a sting, it has a disinfecting effect.

Sugar applied to the affected area has a similar effect. Half an onion or some lemon juice has an anti-inflammatory effect and reduces further skin irritation. Alternatively, garlic can also be used. If you want to remove the fresh poison to avoid swelling, use a clean cloth with hot water and press it lightly on the skin.

Basically, any home remedy needs to be clean and free of debris to avoid infection or further swelling. The same applies to hands, which are thoroughly disinfected before each treatment.

Essential oils are another home remedy to treat a wasp sting yourself. Peppermint oil cools the skin and disinfects the puncture site, tea tree oil reduces existing swelling. Clove oil helps reduce itching. Essential oils can cause allergic skin reactions and should therefore only be tested in small quantities on another area of ​​skin. If there is severe itching or skin irritation, this home remedy is not suitable for treating a wasp sting yourself.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.