How to Treat a Wasp or Hornet Sting

Part 1 of 2: Treating the Sting

Remove the stinger. If the stinger from the wasp or hornet is still lodged in the skin, remove it first thing. It's best to do this with a blunt, flat object like a butter knife, a credit card, or your fingernail. If you squeeze the stinger, it's possible more venom will be released.
  • For that reason, it's advisable to avoid tweezers. However, if the other methods are failing, you can use them -- just be very, very careful not to squeeze the venom sac any further. The venom sac is at the end of the sting, the sting its self has a very tiny hook which is ideal to scrape out sting.

Elevate the area and remove any tight-fitting clothing. If the sting is on your legs, arms, hands, or feet, you'll want to remove any tight clothes, shoes, or jewelry immediately. Swelling will occur, in which case it'll be very hard to remove these items later.
  • The arm or leg should be elevated for this purpose as well. The less it swells, the better you'll feel, so keep those limbs elevated. If it's on your leg, lay down as soon as you can.

Ice the area. The best thing you can do for this sting is to ice it. Don't bother with the pharmaceuticals, don't bother with the old wives' tales of other remedies -- just place ice in a wrap of some sort and keep it on the area for 10 minutes. Remove it when it's getting too cold (you'll definitely know when that is), and repeat it in 10 minute increments. The pain and itchiness will subside almost immediately.
  • Use an ice pack, ice cubes wrapped in a towel, or whatever you have lying around. You probably don't want the ice directly on your skin, so be sure to wrap it up. Because wasp and hornet stings use a strong alkaline, wiping vinegar on the sting will help because vinegar is slightly acidic and will balance the alkaline.

Take an antihistamine (Benadryl) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). These agents help the wasp or hornet sting by relieving the itching and burning sensation (antihistamine) and pain (acetaminophen). Symptoms will probably last 2-5 days; keep the meds and icing up if need be.
  • For those under 18, aspirin is not advised.

Keep it clean to prevent infection. Be sure to regularly clean the wound with soap and water. A sting is nothing to worry about unless it gets infected (or if you're allergic); by keeping it clean, you drastically reduce your chances of anything becoming serious.

If the person stung is having an allergic reaction, call the Emergency Services or your local emergency services. Anaphylaxis is nothing to joke about. If the victim is displaying any of the following symptoms, seek emergency care immediately
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the throat
  • Trouble speaking
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat or pulse
  • Skin that severely itches, tingles, swells, or turns red
  • Anxiety or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
    • If an anaphylaxis action plan has been established and an Epipen is available, inject it. The less time wasted, the better.
Part 2 of 2: Experimenting with Alternative Remedies

Use toothpaste. The remedy second to the miracle powers of ice is toothpaste. The texture and bite somehow fool the brain into feeling like the area is being scratched, so there's psychological satisfaction as well.Dab a bit on the area, wait a few minutes, and the symptoms will subside.
  • You'll need to reapply in about 5 hours or so -- or whenever the symptoms wear off. That's probably enough to find (or make) ice, though -- probably a preferable option.

Alternatively, make a paste of vinegar, baking soda, and meat tenderizer. A tablespoon of vinegar to two tablespoons of baking soda and meat tenderizer should get you started. Spread the mixture on the area and let it sit until the pain subsides.
  • This is your best bet if you're out of ice or toothpaste. Rinse it off with cold water and soap when you'd like to reapply.

If you're in a real pinch, slather on some honey. It's not the best home remedy, but it can lessen your symptoms and get you feeling a bit better, albeit very temporarily (probably around half an hour). Just enough time to get a hold of a better cure.
  • You may have read about using a tea bag or tobacco on the area. Don't bother - neither "remedy" will not help your sting.

Consider pharmaceuticals, but don't depend on them. There are a number of products out there on the market for stings, but none of them is as good as an old-fashioned bag of ice. But if you're curious, here are some details.
  • Skeeter Stik or Survivor Gel Stick are basically tubes of "travel-relief" when camping or otherwise away from the amenities of everyday life. It's a great idea in theory, but not very effective.
  • Caladryl can help. However, most creams, like Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping Cream, are just okay. You might have relief for a few minutes. Hydrocortisone cream is better, but caladryl is best.