How to Cure/Treat Yellow Jacket Stings

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Treat a yellow jacket sting with basic first aid.
Treat a yellow jacket sting with basic first aid. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Yellow jackets may strike at any time, injecting venom into the skin with their stingers. Yellow jackets do not leave their stingers, so they are able to sting multiple times. Their stings cause redness, swelling, pain and itching. The stings can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction, or anaphylactic shock, in certain cases. There are several symptoms to watch for when deciding whether a sting needs emergency medical attention. Most stings can be treated at home with basic first aid.

Things You'll Need

  • Soap and water
  • Washcloth
  • Ice or cold pack
  • Aluminum-based deodorant (optional)
  • Meat tenderizer solution (optional)
  • Epsom salts (optional)
  • Over-the-counter swab sting treatments (optional)
  • Ammonia (optional)
  • Cotton balls
  • Mud (optional)
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Oral antihistamine
  • Hydrocortisone cream, 1 percent

Wash the sting area with warm, soapy water. Apply ice or a cold pack directly to the sting to reduce swelling. Rub an ice cube over the sting for 10 minutes for persistent pain.

Reduce the stinging with an aluminum-based deodorant, meat tenderizer and water solution or thick baking soda paste. Apply them using a cotton ball. These solutions may reduce swelling and neutralize venom. Using Epsom salts, sting treatments with swabs, or ammonia also eases the itch. When nothing else is available, use mud to help with the itching from the sting and help draw out the venom.

Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the pain. Follow the instructions on the package for dosage information.

Take an oral antihistamine to reduce itching. Apply hydrocortisone cream to the sting site up to three times per day.

Monitor the sting for 24 hours. Continue administering basic first aid if symptoms do not worsen. Check for difficulty breathing or swallowing for two hours after the sting occurs. Watch for excessive swelling in the arms and legs, and dizziness or fainting. Call 911 if any of these severe symptoms appear. This could be the onset of anaphylactic shock.

Tips & Warnings

  • Signs of anaphylaxis usually appear within 10 to 20 minutes of the original sting, but it can take up to 20 hours for sign to occur.
  • Stings increase in redness within the first 24 hours. This does not mean the site is infected.
  • If you have been stung by a yellow jacket before and are allergic to the sting, keep epinephrine with you and administer the shot immediately after the sting.
  • Do apply meat tenderizer solution near the eye.

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