Hornet stings can be a very unpleasant way to end a hike or camping experience. However, they can be much more than that too as it’s not uncommon for hornet stings to lead to severe allergic reactions or to sometimes even lethal consequences. Especially if you have to endure a bald-faced hornet sting or a giant Asian hornet sting, you might find yourself in a lot of trouble.
So, what should you do if you get stung by a hornet? Here’s how to treat hornet stings so that you can maximize your chances for an easy recovery.
Hornet sting symptoms
Before we delve into the question of treating a hornet sting, let’s first see how to identify it. There are thousands of different stinging insects on the planet so, especially if you didn’t see the one that stung you, you’ll have to identify it by the mark it’s left on your skin.
Hornet stings typically look like bee or wasp stings, only bigger and more severe. If you’ve been stung by a hornet you’ll notice a raised welt around the sting location. There will also be a tiny white mark in the middle of the site which is where the stinger has punctured your sting. Where with bees you’ll typically find the sting itself lodged in the skin, with hornets and wasps the stinger will still be attached to the insect. However, it’s worth checking if there is a stinger in your skin nevertheless – if there is, you were probably stung by a bee and you should remove it as this will prevent at least some of the venom from seeping into your body. If it was a hornet and there is no allergic reaction you’ll likely just experience this localized swelling and some pain for several hours and that should be it.
All this is just the best-case scenario, however. If that’s all you can see and experience than you haven’t developed any significant allergic reactions to the sting. However, there are those unlucky ones among us who will experience a mild-to-strong allergic reaction. Here are some of the allergy symptoms you should look out for:
- Red and itchy rashes that can spread well beyond the stung area.
- Severe swellings on the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Difficulty breathing, wheezing, and difficulty swallowing.
- A rapid heart rate and arrhythmia.
- A drastic drop in the blood pressure.
- Dizziness and disorientation.
- Shock, cardiac arrest, unconsciousness.
Some of these are manageable and will give you time to react, take first aid measures, and contact a medical professional. Some of them, however, can be so severe that they can render you incapable of taking care of the situation. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance to never be alone near a hornets’ nest and to also always be prepared with protective clothing, hornet body repellents, a doctor’s number on speed dial, and a pack of antihistamine in your pocket.
First aid and home hornet sting remedy options
So, what are the main immediate actions you should take if you’ve been stung by a hornet? Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Check for a bee sting and remove it immediately by scraping the skin with a credit card or another similar method.
- Take an antihistamine medication immediately to relieve and pre-emptively counteract any allergic reaction that might occur. Antihistamines are generally a good choice for any hiker or camper as they can also help with many other seasonal allergies.
- Wash the sting site with soapy water.
- Apply some hydrocortisone cream on the area to relieve the redness, itching, and swelling.
- Apply ice to the site of the sting. Wrap the ice with a towel or keep a piece of cloth between the ice and your skin to prevent freezing. Use this method for 20 minutes per hour to relive the pain and the swelling.
- If needed, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
- If you haven’t had a tetanus booster in the past 10 years, consider taking one in the next couple of days.
- Contact a medical professional even if the symptoms aren’t too severe.
These are the basic first aid treatments and remedies you should consider immediately after being stung. After that, observe the stung site and the rest of your body for allergy symptoms and seek immediate professional help if necessary.
Professional hornet sting treatment solutions
For more severe allergic reactions, the medical professionals that will hopefully reach you in time may do any of the following:
- Local wound care with antibiotic ointments.
- Antihistamines for the itching, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen for the pain, and tetanus immunization.
- You may also be given steroids or epinephrine (adrenaline) injection in more severe cases.
- In the case of throat swellings and difficulties breathing a tube may be placed inside your trachea to help your breathing and prevent suffocation.
- More periodic injections of antihistamines, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen will likely be given in the more problematic cases.
- Intravenous fluids are usually given in such cases as well, sometimes as soon as on the scene of the accident.
- A blood test should be ordered if you’ve been subjected to multiple stings even if there is no severe allergic reaction.
- Prolonged observation in an emergency department is sometimes necessary in the worst cases.
As you can see, there are lots of things that can and should be done after a hornet sting. Hopefully, everything will go away after just several hours of pain and a rash, but that’s not always the case. Even if you’ve been stung by bees or wasps before and you haven’t experienced any allergies, that doesn’t mean that you won’t develop a severe allergic reaction to a hornet sting the next time. That’s why it’s always important to watch out for hornet nests and to always be prepared when hiking in the wilderness. Protective clothing, insect repellents, and a pack of antihistamines should always be at your disposal, together with a travel buddy for extra safety.