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Wasp and Hornet stings

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Wasp and Hornet Stings

Hornets, Wasps and Bees are the most common insects in the UK to trigger an allergic reaction. Unlike bees, wasps and hornets can sting multiple times. Additionally, reactions to their stings can be accumulative (the more times you are stung, the worse your potential reaction). A wasp or hornet sting can be extremely painful. The common wasp (vespula vulgaris) is found in almost all UK habitats. Wasps are most active towards the end of September when their nests tend to reach capacity and they are driven out in search of food. Wasps and hornets may sting when threatened and to defend their nest. Hornets are a specific type of wasp that are usually rounder, fatter and larger than the common wasp. Hornet stings are more painful than wasp stings, but hornets are generally less aggressive if unprovoked.


A wasp or hornet sting causes a sudden, sharp pain at first. This pain can occasionally feel like a burning sensation. A typical, non-allergic reaction to a wasp or hornet sting will usually only last for a few hours and not require medical treatment.

Mild reaction

  • Pain, swelling and redness around the sting site
  • Itchiness


Moderate allergic reaction

The symptoms below indicate a non-severe allergy to wasp and hornet stings:

  • Larger area of redness, swelling and pain around the sting site
  • Skin remaining swollen and painful for up to a week


Allergic reaction symptoms

Rapid onset of any of the following symptoms following a wasp or hornet sting could indicate a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:

  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • Facial swelling
  • Additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A weak, rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Additional possible symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain


As your body’s reaction to wasp and hornet stings can be accumulative, be mindful of whether you have been stung multiple times in the past, as this could cause a more severe reaction. In the unusual event that a sting causes symptoms of a severe reaction, you will need immediate emergency care. If your sting site is showing signs of being infected (swelling and redness persisting beyond a week, pus draining from the sting site and or fever and flu-like symptoms), we recommend that you contact Ahmey’s and make an appointment to see a doctor. If the sting site is incredibly swollen, the doctor might prescribe a topical cream or oral medication to reduce swelling. If the sting site is infected, the doctor may also potentially prescribe antibiotics.


  • Wasps and hornets will only sting you if they feel threatened. Avoid swatting or waving your arms around and try to remain calm and still
  • Wasps and hornets are attracted to strong perfumes and bright colours. Wearing white and neutral colours and avoiding strong perfumes, soaps and detergents when outdoors is a good way to reduce the likelihood of being stung
  • Look out for wasp and hornets’ nests in your home and garden. If you find one, get it removed immediately by a pest control expert or your local council
  • Avoid common breeding or feeding areas, such as flowering plants, rubbish and outdoor areas where food is served


Wasp and hornet stings are painful, but do not usually require medical treatment. If you experience any symptoms of an infection, or experience moderate symptoms that persist beyond a week, contact Ahmey’s to make an appointment. If you experience any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, you will need immediate emergency treatment. Any mild discomfort can be treated by the patient themselves in the ways shown below.

First aid for wasp and hornet stings:

  • Wash the affected area gently with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to clean the wound and reduce the chance of a bacterial infection
  • Place an ice pack or a cold compress (cloth or flannel cooled with cold water) to reduce any swelling
  • If possible, elevate or raise the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Avoid scratching the area to reduce the risk of introducing infection
  • You can purchase anti-inflammatory and anti-itching creams, such as Hydrocortisone, over the counter to relieve itching and reduce inflammation caused by insect bites and stings
Faheem Ahmed

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