The weather’s getting warm, the flowers are blooming, and you know what that means: bugs. They’re back with a vengeance, and that means we have to be careful to stay out of their way.
We may be trying to save the bees, but they don’t know that. To them, we are the enemy, and they use their stingers as a means of self-defense.
But the ones that you really have to look out for are their cousins, the yellow jackets. Some people call them yellow jacket bees, but in fact, they’re part of the wasp family.
Just in case you’re ever unlucky enough to tangle with one of these angry little bugs, we’ve put together some information to help, including home remedies for yellow jacket stings.
What Is the Difference Between a Yellow Jacket and a Bee Sting?
Although these two yellow and black flying insects may look eerily similar, their stings are very different. To know what you’re dealing with and whether you are the unlucky recipient of a bee or yellow jacket sting or bite, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the appearance of each one.
The bee is smaller and rounder, with wings that lay flat along the top of their bodies. Yellow jackets are closer in appearance to their wasp cousins, with longer, thinner torsos and wings that lay along the sides of their bodies.
What does a bee sting look like?
When a bee stings, it’s as a last resort. When a honeybee decides it has no choice but to attack, it can only sting once because its barbed stinger and venom sac will remain inside your skin.
Once they lose their stingers, they usually die within a few minutes. A bee sting usually results in a red welt with a white center where the stinger punctured the skin.
What does a yellow jacket sting look like?
When a yellow jacket stings you, it can continue to sting over and over, multiple times. In fact, a yellow jacket will even chase down a threat for miles.
So do yellow jackets have stingers? Absolutely!
In fact, when they sting they can leave behind a chemical marking you as an enemy so their friends can find and sting you, too. A yellow jacket bite’s appearance can vary person to person, depending on if they’re allergic or sensitive to the venom.
Types of Reactions
Yellow jacket stings can result in different types of reactions. The severity of the reaction can vary from person to person.
- A localized reaction will cause swelling, redness, and pain around the sting bite. Usually, a yellow jacket sting is treated with ice, an antihistamine or a cortisone cream.
- A secondary bacterial infection is caused when there is some type of bacteria on the stinger, and it becomes irritated from scratching or not being clean. Look for pain, redness, draining pus, or for the area surrounding the sting site to get feverishly hot.
- A systemic allergic reaction, which affects the whole body, will cause you to break out in a rash, hives, itchiness, dizziness and can even cause abdominal cramping.
- Delayed reactions can pop up anywhere from seven to ten days after you’ve been stung. Although a delayed reaction is uncommon, symptoms to look out for include inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), the nerves (neuritis), blood vessels and kidneys as well as blood clots.
How to Know if You’re Allergic
Most of the time, people don’t find out they’re allergic to an insect bite or sting until after they’ve already been bit or stung. When someone has an allergic reaction to a sting, they’ll usually experience pain, redness, pimple-like spots, warmth, itching and mild to moderate swelling around the sting area.
When to Seek Medical Help for a Yellow Jacket Sting
There are times when home treatments are enough to provide yellow jacket sting relief. Keep reading for a list of home remedies to help alleviate the pain, itching, and swelling associated with a yellow jacket bite.
However, there are many cases, especially if someone is allergic when home remedies won’t work. At that point, it becomes necessary to seek professional medical attention.
The following list of symptoms are things to look out for when deciding whether the yellow jacket sting treatment can be done at home or by a medical professional:
- Swelling of tongue
- Trouble breathing
- Slurred Speech
- Tightness in chest
- Difficulty swallowing
10 Home Treatments for Yellow Jacket Stings
Although they happen more often than anyone would like, many people do not know how to treat yellow jacket stings. One of the most important things to remember is that you should never squeeze out the stinger or it will release more venom into your system and can make your condition worse. The best way to remove the stinger is to scrape it away with a clean fingernail or blunt knife, then wash it with mild soap and water.
If you are stung, and it does not come with any of the symptoms included above, then you can turn to a home remedy for yellow jacket stings for some quick relief.
1. Baking soda paste
Baking soda is good for more than just neutralizing the odors in your fridge. Its alkaline nature means it’s also perfect for neutralizing the venom of yellow jacket bites. Turning it into a paste will help to quell the redness, swelling and itching that accompanies that bug’s nasty sting.
To create the paste, add one teaspoon of baking soda to a little warm water. Mix it well to make a paste and apply it to the sting for about 5-10 minutes. Wash the area thoroughly with room temperature water. If the symptoms continue, wait a few hours and then repeat the remedy.
Another multitasking remedy for yellow jacket stings is most likely already in your medicine cabinet. In this case, aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties can help to minimize swelling and pain.
Take one regular aspirin and using a spoon, crush it into a powder. To form a paste, mix in a few drops of water and apply it on the sting. Let it sit for a few minutes then wash it off with lukewarm water. You can repeat this again as needed if the symptoms persist.
3. Cold Compresses
The best way to reduce swelling is to apply ice or a cold compress. The cold temperature will help numb the pain and reduce inflammatory elements around the site of the bite.
If you don’t have an ice pack, it’s easy to make one. Place a few ice cubes inside of a thin towel or washcloth. Tie the ends together and hold it on the bite area for about 10 to 15 minutes. You can repeat this process and reapply ever few hours until the swelling subsides.
4. White Toothpaste
Another effective yellow jacket sting remedy that you may have in your medicine cabinet is white toothpaste. Like baking soda, it can help neutralize the acidic venom, which will help with swelling and pain.
Simply spread a little on the area surrounding the sting and let it sit for a few hours. Clean it off by wiping it with a damp washcloth.
You can repeat this process if swelling and pain persist after the treatment. One important thing to keep in mind is that whitening, gel or colored toothpaste will not work. Only use white toothpaste.
5. Activated charcoal
Not only does charcoal make a mean BBQ, but it can also help to neutralize the venom and remove the toxins from a yellow jacket sting. When it does this, it helps to prevent itching, swelling, and pain from the site of the sting.
Use either a charcoal tablet or the charcoal left over from a fireplace or BBQ pit. Make it into a paste by mixing it with a few drops of water. Apply it to the area affected by the sting.
Leave it on for a few hours, then rinse it and wash the area with water. You can repeat this a few times a day to help with pain.
After applying a cold compress to reduce the swelling, one of the best next steps is to apply vinegar to the bite area. The best type of vinegar to use is apple cider vinegar, which will reduce inflammation and ease pain and itching.
Soak a piece of cloth in either apple cider or white vinegar and then apply it onto the bite area. Leave it on for about 5-10 minutes, then rinse it off with water. You can reapply throughout the day as needed.
Honey possesses incredible antibacterial qualities that are useful in quite a few home remedies. It seems only fair that since their cousin, the yellow jacket, gave you that sting, honeybees make the discomfort go away.
Honey can help ease the pain and itching that the yellow jacket sting brings, as well as fighting infection and inflammation. The best kind of honey to use is raw organic.
Apply it directly on the site of the sting and let it dry naturally. Wash it off with lukewarm water and repeat this 2-3 times per day until it feels and looks better.
Plantains may just be among the safest home remedies for yellow jacket stings. Like honey, it has incredible antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the sting from the yellow jacket.
To extract the juice, crush the leaves of the plantain and apply it onto the sting area. Once it completely dries out, rinse the area with lukewarm water. Until the symptoms improve, you can crush more leaves and reapply the juice as needed.
Onions have long been successful in preventing and treating insect bites. Thankfully, these layered white orbs also successfully treat yellow jacket stings.
Cut an onion into slices then simply rub it onto the sting area. Only rub it on the area for a few minutes, but you can leave the juice on for about 15 minutes. Rinse it with lukewarm water.
If for some reason you aren’t able to rub the onion onto the bite, you can also place the slice of onion onto the bite area and leave it on for about 30 minutes. When you’re done, then remove and wash the area with water.
We saved the most unconventional for last. Not just for coloring your hair, ammonia can also be your friend when it comes to treating yellow jacket stings. It has natural alkaline properties that fight against the venom in the sting. Ammonia will provide relief from the pain, itching, and swelling.
Dip a cotton ball into ammonia and dab it onto the sting. Do this throughout the day to alleviate the symptoms. Just make sure not to soak the cotton ball in the ammonia.
Getting stung by a yellow jacket is very painful whether you have an allergic reaction or not. Remember if you are allergic, you should seek medical treatment right away. If you are not sure if you are allergic, it is also best to see the doctor.
Once you are cleared, though, or if you know you are not allergic, you can try out one or all of the home remedies we've provided above. You may want to try multiple ones to see which one works the best for you. They should all work well, but one may take your pain away better than the others.
Let us know how these remedies worked for you. Tell us which ones you tried and how well they worked in the comments.