How Does a Wasp Sting?

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How Does a Wasp Sting?
How Does a Wasp Sting? (Image: "Wasp." [Online image] Available, http://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/wasp3.htm, 17 Feb. 2009.)

How a Wasp Stings

The stinger of a wasp has two parts to it, each flat and lined with barbs that stick into the skin and grab it to keep the victim from pulling free. One half of the stinger pierces the flesh, while the other pushes past it and latches into the skin. Once this second half is latched on, the other slides further in and latches on as well. The process continues till the stinger is embedded into the skin. This all happens in less than a second. The wasp then injects the venom into the victim and pulls out the stinger. Because the hooks are on the inside of the stinger instead of the outside, a wasp can pull out and sting repeatedly without tearing its stinger out. Other insects, such as bees, can only sting once before their stinger is ripped out.

How Stings Affect the Human Body

Though wasp stings are painful, they normally do not require medical attention unless the person is allergic to wasps. The protein in their venom causes an allergic reaction in specific people. Venom is injected into the victim's blood and breaks through the cell membranes. The affected neurons relay the pain we are feeling throughout our bodies. Until the blood can carry away the damaged cells, we will continue to experience pain. Because this may take a while, we can feel the pain for several minutes or hours, even after the wasp has stopped stinging us.

Treating a Wasp Sting

If you are stung by a wasp, it is important to watch and make sure you are not allergic to the sting. If you know you are allergic, go to the hospital immediately. If not, use tweezers to pull out the stinger. Then apply alcohol to the wound to keep it clean. Ice can be used to help with the swelling. If you have been stung by more than one wasp, you should go to the doctor because there will be more venom in your system. Also, if a single wasp sting does not heal itself within 24 hours, a trip to the doctor may be necessary.

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