Yellow jackets look like honey bees without the fuzz, and unlike honey bees, they will sometimes sting without provocation. You should know how to treat yellow jacket stings because they are initially very painful, and people stung by yellow jackets may develop serious and life-threatening reactions to their venom. First, if a person has a known allergy to bee stings, they should always carry a bee sting kit with them and know how to use it. If you’re caring for a person, or traveling with someone who is allergic to bees, get them to train you on how to use the kit too.
While honeybees often sting as a last defense, and lose their stingers in the process, yellow jackets may sting numerous times, and you may not see a stinger. If there is one, you want to scrape it off, rather than pulling it out. Squeezing the stinger can inject more venom into the sting site, which will at minimum make it more painful.
Some people recommend that you treat yellow jacket stings with ice, since this can help ease pain. Another common recommendation by many medical professionals is to use meat tenderizer in paste on the stings. This actually does assist in reducing pain and may also help reduce swelling. If you don’t have ice or meat tenderizer available, you can use baking soda or a little bit of vinegar.
You can expect the sting to hurt quite a bit for the first few hours. Medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help. Antihistamines like Benadryl® may also promote comfort and reduce swelling. The downside to these is that they make people sleepy and might mask the symptoms of a delayed, minor allergic reaction to stings. Minor reactions usually occur before major ones, and if you have a delayed reaction to a sting you need to consider yourself bee sting allergic; this means you should start carrying a bee sting kit with you.
Most people can expect some swelling and redness around the sting area, but this swelling should be localized. If a person has massive swelling, this is a not a normal reaction and requires immediate medical care. When swelling doesn’t reduce in a few days, and there are red streaks or any appearance of pus, this is an infection. Yellow jackets do come into contact with feces and dead animals, and this can transfer infection to people they sting. If you suspect the sting is infected, you should see a doctor.
Another part of learning to treat yellow jacket stings is learning to recognize when a person may be having an allergic reaction to the sting. A person who complains of difficulty breathing, has slurred speech, has huge swelling around the sting site, seems confused, or who is running a fever may be having an allergic reaction. This is an emergency medical situation and you should call 911. Severe allergies to stings cause anaphylactic shock and there should be no delay in preventing this type of deadly reaction.
Sometimes when you treat yellow jacket stings people, have a delayed reaction. A delayed reaction may present several hours later with things like fever, general tiredness, or sudden extreme illness. If you note this reaction several hours after you treat yellow jacket stings this also may require immediate medical care. Contact your doctor or go to an urgent care clinic. However you should still call 911 if there is trouble breathing or you feel additional cause for concern is warranted.
Another thing you should bear in mind is location of sting, number of stings and age of the person being stung. You should get immediate care for children who have ten or more stings at once, and for kids that have a sting in the mouth. As you treat yellow jacket stings that are numerous, be sure to watch for any signs of potential allergic reaction, immediate or delayed. When in doubt, get medical treatment.