Wasps emerge from their hibernation in spring and begin to set up new nests, reaching peak activity levels during the warm summer months.
We often cross paths with them as they range about looking for food in the late summer months and some of us are inevitably stung.
While unpleasant, wasp stings aren’t usually dangerous, however in around 10 per cent of cases, people can have a bad reaction to these.
These problems are known as large local reactions and usually feature swelling in the affected area, pain, inflammation and itching.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and they’re not going away or you think they’re unusually severe - see a doctor online now.
Can our GPs help?
Our GPs can examine the affected area, discuss your symptoms and provide tailored treatment or advice to help clear up the problem quickly.
What causes wasp stings?
Wasps operate in annual cycles and after a nest has produced new queens, it begins to decline. At this stage, worker drones will venture off on their own to find food sources and some of their favourites include the sweet treats we enjoy in summer.
While looking for a tasty snack, these lone wasps often come into contact with people and if their instincts to fight are triggered, they’ll attack any perceived threat.
Unlike bees, wasps’ stingers are smooth - letting them sting multiple times. The adverse effects of a sting are caused by the venom, which can paralyse the insects they prey on and convince bigger animals to stay away by causing an immense amount of pain.
Wasp venom triggers the nervous system in its victim, causing it to experience much greater pain than a wound of that size should lead to.
It contains substances like norepinephrine, which slows the flow of blood, causing the pain to last longer and chemicals that allow the venom to spread through cells, which causes the telltale swelling.
In some rare cases, people can experience a severe allergic reaction after being stung, which may cause dizziness, swelling and problems breathing. If you’ve recently been stung and are experiencing a severe allergic reaction, it’s recommended that you seek emergency medical attention.
Treating wasp stings
While they might seem painful, typical stings aren’t much to worry about. Simply wash the affected area with soap and water, which should help remove the venom.
To reduce swelling, an ice pack - or in a pinch a pack of frozen peas - should do the trick. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin, as this can cause problems of its own.
Over-the-counter painkillers will usually be enough to help you deal with any pain, while hydrocortisone or calamine lotion can help ease itching.
If you have a severe allergic reaction to a wasp sting, you should seek emergency medical assistance, as this can be potentially fatal if left untreated.
If you’re having a large local reaction, or your symptoms aren’t going away after a few days - you should speak to a doctor.
Updated: February 11, 2021