The key to treating a yellow jacket sting is to act quickly.
Yellow jackets are attracted to dark colored clothing. If you're going to be in an area where there will be yellow jackets hovering around, it's a good idea to dress in light-colored clothes. It's also a good idea not to wear any kind of perfume or fragrance. This will only attract the yellow jackets to you. If a yellow jacket is swatted or even hurt in any way, it will send off a signal to the other yellow jackets in its hive, who will come to its rescue. In fact, if you step on or squash a yellow jacket, a rupture in its venom sack can incite other yellow jackets to attack.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a yellow jacket stinger, the key is to act quickly. The faster you act, the better are your chances for walking away with as little swelling and pain as possible. Remove the stinger immediately from the wound by scraping a credit card, butter knife or other thin straight-edged object along the wound. In many cases, the stinger can also be removed by using fingers or tweezers, but take care not to squeeze the venom sack located at the end of the stinger. This will just inject more venom into the wound. The sting will usually last twenty-four to seventy two hours.
After the stinger is removed, clean the wound with soap and water to remove any bacteria. Wrap some ice in a cloth or place in an ice pack and apply to the wound for ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove the ice for ten minutes. The ice should be applied in several ten minutes on-ten minutes off increments. If you have circulatory problems, apply the ice for a shorter amount of time to avoid skin damage. If you're still experiencing pain, you can take some aspirin.
There are also several home remedies that can be applied to help relieve the pain and swelling:
- Dab ammonia directly on the wound.
- Apply a paste of baking soda and water and wrap with a handkerchief and bandana.
- Apply a poultice made of an enzyme based meat tenderizer and wrap with a handkerchief or bandana
- Apply a paste made of activated charcoal and water and wrap with a handkerchief or bandana.
- Apply a mudpack - clay soil and water mixed into a paste works best - and wrap with a handkerchief of bandana.
If itching and swelling continue to occur, take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine such as Benadryl. This should relieve the symptoms. If it's been more than seven years since your last tetanus booster, you may want to speak with your doctor to see if another one is necessary. If you're stung more than ten times, or on the inside of your mouth, call your doctor right away.
For those people who are allergic to yellow jacket venom, the sting can be quite serious, and it takes a lot more than some ice and mud to treat. Call 911 if you experience any of the following symptoms after being stung:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Slurred speech
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Confusion or jumbled thoughts
- Tightness in the throat or chest
- Coughing or hoarseness
- Weakness leading to fainting
These may be symptoms of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, and treatment must be immediate. Once the weather becomes cool, the yellow jackets will start to die off. Until then, take care to avoid these insects. In most cases, if you ignore them, they'll ignore you, but every now and then you might run across an angry one. Do your best to stay out of its way, and if you're stung, act quickly. The sooner you treat your wound, the more comfortable you'll be.