Yellow Jacket Stings: Symptoms, Reactions, Home Remedies & Prevention Tips

Yellow Jacket Sting

A yellow jacket sting pain can turn a pleasant day outdoors to an annoying one. If you are planning for outdoor activities, you need to know the reactions of wasp stings and different treatments.

Yellow jackets are the thin wasps with yellow and black stripes and long wings. They are often confused with honey bees because of the striping. The differences are honey bees more round, produce honey and create hives. Yellow jackets live in nests and found in the ground and remote areas. They also have the ability to deliver multiple stings.

This article discusses the common symptoms, reactions, treatments and prevention tips for yellow jacket stings.

Reactions and Symptoms of Yellow Jacket Stings

The symptoms of the stings from yellow jacket are quite similar to other insect stings. The only difference is when an individual gets stung multiple times. Here are the reactions and symptoms of the yellow jacket stings:

1. Localized Reactions

Multiple symptoms happen at the site of the sting. When the yellow jacket stings you, the skin punctures and the venom enters the tissue. You may feel the symptoms like pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.

These symptoms can last up to several hours before the sting starts to ease. The affected skin would become itchy, and you may also feel fatigued or nauseated. These symptoms are harmless, and first aid is the common treatment for localized reactions.

2. Allergic Reactions

The type of allergic reaction from a yellow jacket sting is systemic, meaning it affects the whole body. Systemic allergic reactions happen in individuals who produce an antibody called immunoglobulin E (1). Symptoms from an allergic reaction are grave and harmful, yet occur in only a small percentage.

Some examples of acute symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing due to narrowing of the bronchial passages and swelling of the pharynx
  • Flushed skin
  • Red bumps on skin

The range of severity is mild skin irritations to life-threatening. The most severe symptom that could happen is anaphylaxis. The characteristics of anaphylaxis are breathing difficulty, circulatory disruption, and low blood pressure.

Anaphylaxis could escalate to cardiorespiratory arrest (2). This condition occurs mostly in males and individuals below 20. People who have experienced allergic reactions to stings in the past have dodged future stings by 50%. You should immediately seek a professional medical help in the case of anaphylaxis.

3. Toxic Reactions

Toxic reactions happen from multiple yellow jacket stings, which results in receiving large quantities of venom. The result of having received a large amount of venom is an immune response. Common symptoms of a toxic reaction include:

  • Convulsions
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea

There is the possibility of hives, but not quite as often as allergic reactions. There is a long-term risk associated with toxic reactions. Your body makes antibodies from this toxic reaction and creating a future sting allergy. Allergies to stings happen to those who have not had an allergic response to a sting in the past.

4. Bacterial Infections

A bacterial infection from a yellow jacket sting is secondary. An infection occurs from always itching or scratching the sting area. The scratches create an entrance for bacteria. Another way an infection manifests is when the affected area is not cleaned or sanitized properly.

5. Delayed Reactions

The delayed reactions are rare and consist of 1% of the stings. The symptoms of delayed reactions include inflammation of the brain, nerves, blood vessels, and kidneys. Blood clotting disturbances can also occur in some cases.

Home Remedies to Treat Yellow Jacket Stings

After a sting, move out of the area regardless if a wasp nest is visible or not. There are home remedies to try if the sting site does not produce symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.

Before trying any home remedy, the first task is to make sure the stinger is not stuck in the skin. Use tweezers or a blunt knife to remove the stinger. Clean the sting site with soap and water. Then, try one of these home remedies.

If you develop severe allergic reactions such as swollen throat and trouble breathing, use an Epipen if it is available, and seek medical attention right away.

1. Cold Compress

Using a cold compress on the sting site should be the first task of trying a different home remedy. The cold compress numbs the nerves and reduces swelling and inflammation. Here are the steps to using a cold compress:

  • Add a few ice cubes in a bowl of water
  • Dip a clean cloth in the water
  • Squeeze out the excess water, and place the cloth on sting site
  • Leave on skin for 10 min
  • Optional: repeat steps 2-3 times if needed.

Another option for a cold compress is a bag of frozen vegetables or cold water bottle wrapped in a cloth. Never apply frozen items directly on the skin to avoid frostbite.

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda is another home remedy for yellow jacket sting. It works as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps offset the venom in the skin. Baking soda can provide immediate relief from itchiness and pain. Follow these instructions below to use baking soda as a remedy:

  • Create a paste by mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with a small amount of water
  • Spread the paste on the sting site
  • Leave on skin for 10 minutes
  • Wash the site with lukewarm water
  • Optional: Repeat these steps for a few hours if needed

3. Vinegar

Raw and unfiltered white and apple vinegar are one of the best home treatments for yellow jacket stings. The acid in vinegar acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to lessen swelling, inflammation, pain, and itching.

Here are the steps on using vinegar for wasp sting:

  • Soak a cotton ball in a choice of vinegar
  • Press cotton ball on the sting site for 5-10 minutes
  • Repeat as needed

4. Honey

Honey contains antibacterial properties, which help with pain and itching. It also helps with preventing infections. Raw and pure honey is more effective than processed honey.

  • Spread a bit of honey over sting site
  • Leave honey on the site until it dries (about 30 minutes)
  • Wash site with lukewarm water

The honey can be mixed with turmeric to make a paste. Follow the same instructions when using the paste.

5. Plantain

The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of help you reduce the swelling, inflammation pain, itchiness, and the risk of infection.

  • Juice the plantain leaves by gently crushing them
  • Apply the plantain juice on the sting site
  • Let it dry on skin
  • Rinse with lukewarm water

Plantain ointment can also be used instead of the manual extraction of juice.

6. Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is another helpful home remedy (3). It can naturally soak up the toxins from the sting. It also alleviates pain and swelling when used right away. There are a couple of ways you can use the activated charcoal for yellow jacket stings.

Option 1: Slightly wet a charcoal tablet.Scour it on the padding of a regular band-aid. Put the band-aid on sting site. Repeat these steps in a couple of hours.

Option 2: Open three charcoal capsules, and dump the contents into a small bowl. Make a paste by pouring and mixing enough water. Spread the paste on sting site, and leave it for a few hours. Rinse paste off with lukewarm water. Repeat these steps if needed.

Option 3: Take activated charcoal capsules with approval from a doctor.

7. Medicines

Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, antihistamines, and corticosteroids can help with swelling, pain, and itchiness from a yellow jacket sting. First aid kits should also have items that help with these types of stings. You can also ask the pharmacist for suggestions on what is available for sting sites.

How to Prevent Yellow Jacket Stings

Yellow jackets are out more in the spring and summer seasons. They are attracted to flowers because of the nutrients these plants provide for them.

Yellow jackets start to look for more sources of sugar as food after the flowers die. This is the time when yellow jackets are more aggressive. Here are the tips to prevent a sting from a yellow jacket:

  • Avoid sudden or jerking movements when a yellow jacket lands on body part. Wait for it to go away on its own or use an object to remove it.
  • Take an alternate route on a hiking trail if there is a high number of them. A group of yellow jackets means there is a nest nearby.
  • Resist swatting at yellow jackets because this makes them more aggressive.
  • Cover trash cans.

When to See a Doctor

Some individuals are highly allergic to yellow jacket stings and at risk for anaphylaxis. It is recommended to carry a treatment kit if a severe allergy to a yellow jacket sting is known.

Children’s schools should also to alerted about an allergy and had a treatment kit at school. Emergency medical attention must be sought if there are signs of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.

Regardless of the severity, a sting should be acted on immediately. Here are the symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fainting
  • Slurred speech
  • Swelling of tongue
  • Trouble swallowing
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Irene Entila

Irene is a health and fitness consultant based out of Albuquerque, NM. She was a personal trainer during the years of 2010-2013. She holds a Bachelors of Liberal Arts with a focus on creative writing from The Evergreen State College. She obtained her personal trainer license through Seattle Central College in 2010. Irene has been an athlete since childhood. She currently train and compete in ultra-marathon running and jiu jitsu. She started health writing in 2009 as a hobby through her personal blog. She believes that people can seek help from a trainer or trained profession to reach fitness and health goals. Though, people can learn a lot about them and promote self-sufficiency if they had affordable resources. By 2010, Irene started contributing to several health websites while completing her personal trainer certification and training for marathons. She saw how certain health variables affected her training and wanted to share this information with the public. Since then, Irene has written various articles about health and fitness featured on different magazines.