Health hazards of wasps and other stinging insects: Prevention and treatment

Wasps and other stinging insects can pose a number of health problems to you and your...

Wasps and other stinging insects can pose a number of health problems to you and your pets. In addition to pain, swelling and itching, an encounter with an angry wasp can also lead to other issues. Sometimes, you'll deal with repeated stings or a lodged stinger. Wasps can also cause severe allergic reactions and skin infections. Here are some things to keep in mind during the summer, when wasps and their brethren are out and about.

Unlike bees, wasps have a stinger that is not barbed, so it may not immediately become lodged in your skin. An angry wasp that has stung you once might sting you repeatedly. With each sting, more venom is released into your body, increasing the pain, swelling and itching that you experience.

Sting prevention

  • Stay vigilant when you are outdoors, as different wasps prefer a variety of different nesting locations. Watch where you walk, as some wasps nest in the ground, while others prefer shrubs, eaves, or trees.
  • To prevent a wasp sting, avoid wearing fragrances outside during the summer and use an insect repellent that contains DEET.
  • If a wasp does land on you, calmly wait for the insect to fly away on its own or gently shoo it away to keep from being stung.

If you are stung

  • If you are stung by a wasp, immediately leave the area. Do not swat at the wasp, which will just anger the insect more and increase the likelihood of repeated stings.
  • If you do end up with a wasp stinger lodged in your skin, A lodged stinger also will not allow the wound to heal properly, potentially resulting in infection. Additionally, any pain or swelling you experience from a wasp sting will continue until the stinger is removed from your skin.
  • Use a sterilized dull knife, tweezers, or your fingernails (make sure to clean them first) to gently coax or scrape the stinger from your skin. After removing the stinger, thoroughly clean the area with soap and water. When removing a stinger, you must be careful not to squeeze it to avoid releasing more venom into your body.
  • Use baking soda in water to help draw the venom out of your body.
  • Use a cold compress to ease any pain and swelling.
  • Although the bite may be itchy, you should take care not to scratch it. Scratching at the wound can introduce bacteria into the skin than can result in a skin infection.

If you have an allergic reaction

Between one to three percent of the population is allergic to wasp venom. If you are an individual with a wasp allergy, even a single sting can be enough to cause a serious reaction.

  • Look for signs of a severe allergic reaction to a wasp sting; they include the following: tongue and throat swelling, wheezing, dizziness, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or a drop in blood pressure.
  • An allergic reaction is made worse by repeated stings from an angry wasp. If you have a known allergy, it is especially important to immediately administer epinephrine, seek medical assistance even if your symptoms subside, and monitor your symptoms for at least 24 hours.

Since wasps can pose significant health hazards to humans, the easiest way to prevent a health emergency is to remove the insects from your home and yard. If you discover a wasp nest on your property, your best bet is to contact an Atlanta-area pest control expert.

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