Yellow jackets, or Vespula vulgaris, are a type of stinging insect. Yellow jackets are wasps-not bees-even though their yellow and black stripes are similar to marks found on a bumblebee.
Unlike bees, when a yellow jacket stings, it does not lose its stinger and can sting you multiple times. Learning how to treat yellow jacket stings properly may reduce some pain and discomfort.
Removing a yellow jacket stinger
If you are stung by a yellow jacket, move to a safe area away from the stinging insects and inspect the wound. Check the sting area to determine if the stinger is still in the wound. If you can see a stinger, do not pull it out; pulling out the yellow jacket stinger can release venom into your system. The yellow jacket venom can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Instead, gently scrape the stinger off with a fingernail to remove it.
Treatment after yellow jacket stinger removal
Begin treatment by cleaning the wound area with soap and warm water. Don't rub when washing the wound area, as this can cause pain or discomfort. Typically, yellow jacket stings hurt. To alleviate some of the pain, apply a cold pack on the site of the sting. Keep the ice on for about 10 minutes and take it off for 10 minutes. Repeat the process as needed. Ice should help decrease the pain and reduce any swelling that may have occurred. In addition to using ice for pain relief, an oral over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken.
If the yellow jacket sting itches
For some people, a yellow jacket sting will itch. Topical treatments such as hydrocortisone cream can be applied to the wound area to alleviate the uncomfortable and annoying itch. If the sting does itch, resist scratching; vigorous scratching will only make you feel worse and can even cause bleeding. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking an oral over-the-counter antihistamine to help reduce the itchy feeling.
Mild allergic reactions to yellow jacket stings
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), about 4 percent of allergy suffers have insect allergies as their primary allergy. Allergic reactions to yellow jacket stings are usually mild and include nausea, cramping, diarrhea and swelling around the wound area. If you have been stung by a yellow jacket and experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Severe allergic reactions to yellow jacket stings
Because nearly 100 Americans die each year from insect allergies, you should be aware of the signs of a severe allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction may include hives and swelling of the face, lips and tongue. In some cases, the throat may also swell, creating a blocked airway. Difficulty breathing, a severe drop in blood pressure and collapsing are some other serious side effects that can occur. If any of these symptoms are present, seek medical attention immediately.