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How to Treat a Hornet Sting at Home

July 19, 2021
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It's finally summer, the weather is friendly and inviting. It's time to enjoy the great outdoors. As you walk in your garden, you notice something else has come out to play: Hornets.

Do they sting, and how do you treat a hornet sting at home? Yes. A hornet sting is much more powerful than an insect sting, wasp sting, bee sting, or the sting of any stinging insect. Hornet venom contains a large amount of potent pain stimulant called acetylcholine, making stings a lot painful and, not to mention, lethal. If you happen to find yourself in this situation, here's exactly what to do and how to treat the sting or any allergic reaction.

How to Identify a Hornet Sting

Most of the time, an insect attack will make you panic and lose sight of what's happening. If you weren’t able to see the insect that stung you, you would have to identify it by the mark it has left on your skin. If you see a red, throbbing welt, as well as a small white mark in the center of the wound, it’s possibly from a hornet. 

Often, people confuse honey bee or wasp stings as hornet stings, but another clear indication is when there’s no stinger in sight. When hornets sting, their stinger will remain attached to their bodies. With bees, you'll usually find the stinger itself still intact in your skin. If you see a stinger, you were probably stung by a bee, and you should remove it as quickly as possible to avoid at least some of the venom sac from entering your body. 

Learning how to identify a sting and whether there’s a venom sac is the best way to know if you can treat the bite at home or if you need to seek immediate medical attention. 

Hornet Sting Symptoms

If you’ve confirmed that the sting is from a hornet, you’ll probably suffer no more than localized swelling, and the pain should recede within several hours. However, if the sting causes a more serious reaction, you might be experiencing a venom allergy.

Here are some of the insect sting allergy symptoms you should look out for:

  1. Red and itchy rashes beyond the sting site
  2. Severe swellings on your face, tongue, throat, or lips
  3. Shock
  4. Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  5. Struggling to swallow 
  6. A weak pulse or rapid heart rate
  7. An extreme drop in blood pressure
  8. Nausea and disorientation
  9. Cardiac arrest or unconsciousness

Anaphylaxis (the term used to describe a severe systemic allergic reaction) can happen quickly and can be fatal in a short amount of time, so make sure to take first aid measures and contact a medical professional immediately. To prevent venom allergy, keep a packet of antihistamines in your pocket, wear protective clothing, and use insect repellent if you plan to stay outdoors. When gardening, always use gloves. Moreover, bites and stings can happen when you have bare feet, so wear shoes, even inside your home.

First Aid and Home Remedies

Understanding what to do in case of an insect bite can save a life, so it's an excellent idea to learn first aid basics. When stung by a hornet, immediately perform these measures:

  1. Transfer to a safe area to avoid more bites or stings.
  2. Cleanse the site of the sting with soap and water.
  3. Apply cold compress or ice to the sting site to dull the pain and reduce swelling. 
  4. Use 1% hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the bite area to relieve redness and itching. Always stock these topical medications as they’re effective in mosquito bites and other types of bug bite.
  5. Take an antihistamine to counteract any allergic reaction. Antihistamines are generally good to have on hand as they can also help with many seasonal allergies.
  6. If needed, take acetaminophen to manage the pain.
  7. If you haven’t had a tetanus booster in the past ten years, consider getting one over the next couple of days.

When to Seek Emergency Care

If an anaphylactic reaction or anaphylactic shock occurs, immediately seek medical help. Medical professionals may perform any of the following:

  1. Perform local wound care with corticosteroid or antibiotic. 
  2. If needed, prescribe antihistamines for the itching, pain relievers, and/or a tetanus immunization.
  3. Inject steroids, epinephrine autoinjector, or allergy shots in more severe situations.
  4. Insert a tracheal tube to avoid suffocation if you have a swelling throat or you struggle in breathing. 
  5. Give you intravenous fluids, which is common in cases with a severe reaction. 

The doctor may require you to take a blood test if you have multiple stings, even if there's no sign of a severe allergic reaction. Extended observation in the emergency department can also be necessary for the worst cases.

Even if you’ve been stung by hornets before and haven’t had a systemic reaction, it doesn't necessarily mean that you’ll develop venom immunotherapy to hornet venom, as well as insect venom, wasp venom, and bee venom. This is why it's always important to watch out for any wasp nest. Keep in mind that these pests will stay unbothered unless their perceived enemy chooses to disturb their nest. Yellow jacket sting and fire ant sting most often trigger allergic reactions, so be more careful with them.

Safeguarding Your Home From Hornets

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The best way to prevent hornets or any flying insect from entering your home is by removing potential lures. Here's how:

  1. Don’t leave any dropped fruit lying on the ground as hornets are drawn to its scent. Pick up peels or pieces scattered around as these entice hornets to build a nest nearby. Bananas are attractive to hornets, so be sure to discard their peels in a closed trash bin.
  2. Make sure your trash and recycling bin are sealed. Open containers and garbage can attract hornets in search of food. Once hornets discover a new food source, they establish a new nest in the area, so keeping them closed is an effective way to deter hornets.
  3. Seal those cracks in your walls with caulk to avoid nesting. Hornets can penetrate the walls of your home through any cracks or crevices and build a nest inside that can be difficult to eradicate. 
  4. As much as possible, avoid using sweet-smelling scents that may draw hornets. They have a keen sense of smell, and sweet-smelling chemicals in cologne, perfume, and soap can make them assume that you’re a source of food. Use unscented toiletries. Clean your garments with unscented detergents if there are hornets in the area. Moreover, sweat that collects in your clothing can lure nearby hornets, so wear clean clothing if hornets have been in the area.
  5. Remove any brightly colored items around your home. Hornets can get attracted by bright colors and attack you. Pick up any bright-colored objects from your yards, such as lawn chairs, garden decorations, or even frisbees.
  6. Rake up those piles of leaves, gather any wood, and remove it from your yard to help avoid female hornets from nesting on your property.
  7. Treat your camping gear, clothes, and shoes with repellent to fend off hornets and other insects.
  8. Regularly mow and keep the grass on your lawn healthy to fight off an insect infestation.
  9. The best way to stop a giant hornet nest from forming and becoming a nuisance is to get rid of it before it develops. It’s best to hire a skilled and experienced pest control specialist to complete a detailed check around your entire property and search for any pests and infestations that may be present.

The Safest Way to Eliminate Hornets

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