In most people, a yellowjacket sting produces an immediate pain at the sting site. There will be localized reddening, swelling and itching. Unlike a bee, a yellowjacket will not leave a barbed stinger in the skin.
A yellowjacket will often bite the skin to get a better grip, and then jab its stinger into a person's flesh repeatedly.
Here's what to do if you or someone with you is stung by a yellowjacket:
- Wash the wound carefully with soap and water. This will help remove the venom.
- Apply cold water or ice in a wet cloth, or a paste of meat tenderizer with water.
- Take a pain reliever or an oral antihistamine to reduce swelling.
- Apply a calamine product to reduce itching.
- Lie down.
- Lower the stung arm or leg below the heart.
- Do not drink alcohol or take sedatives.
If the sting is to the throat or mouth, seek medical attention immediately! Swelling in these areas can cause suffocation.
Signs that a person may be allergic…
- Severe swelling in parts of the body distant from the sting site
- Widespread skin irritation/hives
- Constriction in throat and chest/difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Vomiting or diarrhea
The above symptoms after a sting point to anaphylaxis -- a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.
If you’re with someone who is experiencing anaphylaxis, you should:
- Call 911
- See if they have an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector (Epi-Pen) and inject them
- Try to keep them calm
- Help them lie on their back
- Raise their feet about 12 inches and cover them with a blanket
- Turn them on their side if they are vomiting or bleeding
- Make sure their clothing is loose so they can breathe
- Avoid giving them oral medications or anything to drink, and avoid lifting their head -- especially if they’re having trouble breathing
For more information about an insect sting allergy, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immmunology is a great resource.