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What to do about wasp sting

Wasps are most active during late summer and early fall, which is the time they are most likely to sting. For the majority of people a wasp sting is only a painful annoyance, but for the rest of us a sting can trigger dangerous allergic reaction. When a wasp stings, it injects venom into your skin. Here is what to look out for and do in the event you suffer a wasp sting.

Symptoms of wasp sting

Look out for signs of wasp sting, including a red mark (a weal) around the area of the sting, as well as swelling and itchy skin. While the sting is often painful, in most cases it is harmless. The itchiness and pain will remain for a few days and then disappear on its own.

However, in rare cases, the venom injected into the skin by a wasp sting can cause allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). In this case, talk to your GP immediately to get treatment or referral to an allergy clinic for immunotherapy. Also, contact you GP immediately if you have a lot of swelling, blistering or pus, which indicate an infection.

If there are no severe allergy symptoms from a wasp sting, here’s what to do:

1. Remove the stinger

Scrape the surface of the skin where you were stung to see the stinger. Use tweezers or your fingernails to remove it. Be careful so you don’t pinch the stinger and cause it to inject some more venom.

2. Control the swelling

There are different ways to control the swelling, depending on the area of the sting. In most cases, though, icing the area will do. If you were stung on the leg or arm, elevate the leg/arm to help ease the swelling.

3. Treat the symptoms

Apply a mixture of baking soda and water or calamine lotion to control itchiness or simply take an antihistamine. For pain, take an over-the-counter painkiller like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Preventing insect bites and stings

Prevention is always better than cure. If you work outdoors or routinely participate in outdoor activities like hiking or camping, wear insect repellant and keep your skin covered all the time. If you encounter wasps or other insects that sting like bees and hornets, try not to panic. Back away slowly without doing something foolish like swatting or waving at the insects. This should be enough to keep you safe from a wasp sting. Insects only sting or bite when they feel threatened as a defense mechanism.

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