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There are over 25,000 varieties of wasps in the world. The most common in North America are the mud wasp, paper wasp, yellow jacket and hornet. Wasp stings are common, not dangerous for most people, and are very easy to treat. It isn't hard to learn the best methods of first aid for wasp sting victims.
When a wasp stings, it releases up to 13 different antigens, or chemicals, into its victim. There is first a burning pain, as the initial chemicals enter the body, and then the pain resides some as the wasp removes the stinger and flies off. Within minutes, the affected area swells up and turns red. Discomfort and swelling generally last several hours, with a smaller red bump remaining for a day or two.
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Basic First Aid
There are not a lot of ways to treat a wasp sting. First, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Applying ice immediately can reduce, and sometime even prevent, swelling. If there is no ice available, mud will do the same job. Some people also say that a paste made from baking soda and water can be used to treat the swelling. An antihistamine can also help to reduce a person's reaction to the sting. Unlike bees, who leave their stinger behind, a wasp doesn't break its stinger off in the victim, so there is no stinger to remove.
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For Allergic Reactions
In some cases, people have an allergic reaction to the wasp sting. In up to three percent of cases, the person stung has a whole-body, or systemic, reaction to the chemicals the wasp injects. Reactions may include hives, swelling and difficulty breathing (due to swelling in the air passages). Mild cases may not require any treatment beyond an antihistamine, but severe reactions will require immediate medical care. Immediately call for emergency medical care, and let the care operator know that the person stung is having an allergic reaction. If they have had this reaction before, the person may be carrying a shot of adrenaline or epinephrine with them to help reduce the effects of the sting. Keep them lying down, and stay with them until help arrives.
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For Multiple Stings
While the amount of toxins from one or two stings is not harmful to most people, there are cases where a person is stung multiple times. This higher amount of venom is extremely poisonous. Signs of a problem include nausea, fever, vomiting, fainting and dizziness. Call immediately for help and stay with the person until help arrives. There is nothing that you can do other than wait for professional medical assistance.
Wasps are everywhere. While it is best to avoid being stung, it can't always be helped. Knowing first aid for wasp sting reactions can result in considerably less discomfort for the person who was stung. In cases where the person is allergic to wasp stings, knowing what to do may even save their life.
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Wasp Stings: eMedicine Emergency Medicine from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/169324-overview. Written by: Carl A. Meade MD. Accessed November 2009
Bee and Wasp Sting Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment from http://www.medicinenet.com/bee_and_wasp_sting/page2.htm. Author Unknown. Accessed November 2009.
Wasp Allergy, Bee Sting Allergy from http://www.allergyuk.org/fs_waspsting.aspx. Author Unknown. Accessed November 2009.