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Wasps are slender with a relatively thin waist and four wings. Smooth and somewhat shiny, wasps have brightly colored "skin," often with sharply contrasting black and yellow patterns. Females can sting multiple times. The males have wings but no stingers. Wasps are beneficial predators and feed on insects and spiders. Because its stinger is not barbed, it can be removed and reinserted repeatedly, each time injecting out enough venom to cause considerable pain.

Yellow jackets have jagged bands of yellow and black. The stings are painful and they attack viciously outdoors when nests are bothered.

Signs and Symptoms of Bee, Ant or Wasp Stings

The severity of an insect sting reaction varies from person to person. A normal reaction will result in pain, swelling and redness around the sting site. A large local reaction includes swelling and redness beyond the sting site. Although frightening in appearance, these large local reactions usually will go away over several days. The most serious reaction to any insect bite or sting is an allergic one. Any of these reactions requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction or "anaphylaxis" may include one or more of the following:

L     Redness, hives, itching or swelling in areas other than the sting/bite site.
L     Tightness in or constriction of the chest and difficulty breathing.
L     Abdominal cramps.
L     Hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue.
L     Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure.
L     Unconsciousness, shock or cardiac arrest.
L     Delayed reactions can also occur.

This type of reaction can occur within minutes after the sting/bite and may be life-threatening. People who have previously experienced an allergic reaction to an insect sting or bite have a good chance of a similar or worse reaction if stung or bitten again by the same kind of insect. If you have severe allergies to any insect, always carry appropriate medicine prescribed by your physician with you when you go outdoors. To relieve minor stings or itches, apply a paste of baking soda and water, half of a cut onion, apple cider vinegar or meat tenderizer or a moist aspirin to the sting/bite.
Remember that baking soda is alkaline and will neutralize the acidic stings of bees and that vinegar is an acid and will help soothe the alkaline sting of a wasp. See treatment below.


Wash the sting/bite site with soap and water or an antiseptic to help remove some of the venom from the skin's surface. Apply cold compresses to the site to help keep the venom localized. Have the victim rest. Apply freshly chewed or crushed plantain leaves to the site or apply a paste of warm water and powdered bentonite clay or activated charcoal to the site. You can also ingest a few capsules of activated charcoal. Other products that have helped people relieve bee stings are honey, lemon, lime, onion, papaya, vinegar, Swedish bitters, cold milk compresses, baking soda, a moist aspirin, essential oil of lavender, vitamin B, fresh aloe, vitamin C paste, witch hazel, meat tenderizer and/or enzyme cleaners or Not Nice to Itching™ or, in a pinch, a mud pack. Call your health care provider to determine whether the bite can be managed at home or will require medical treatment. If you are bitten or stung and did not see the insect, call your health care provider. From the symptoms you describe, the nurses or doctors will determine if your bite or sting could be poisonous and if you need to be examined by a doctor.


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