One of the most terrifying phenomena in nature is that of the common Hornet. What could be more petrifying than to realize that one of these Pokémon-like insects is flying towards you with ill intent? If you are reading this article, you likely already know that one of the only things worse than seeing a hornet up close is actually receiving a hornet sting. A hornet sting can be an extremely painful experience and the intensity of pain that a hornet sting causes can also cause many people to worry that it will cause permanent damage. While a hornet sting is usually nothing to worry about, it can be dangerous in certain situations. This article will guide you through the proper treatment for your hornet sting to help avoid further unnecessary pain.
Before we embark on hornet stings and how to treat a hornet sting, it seems appropriate to say a word on hornets themselves. If this doesn’t interest you and you only want to know how to treat your hornet sting, skip down to the heading “How to treat a Hornet Sting”.
Hornets are a type of wasp and eusocial insect, which means that they form colonies like bees or ants. Like bees, hornets form hives in which many infertile females work to maintain the hive for one queen hornet who produces eggs. Hornet stings are usually a result of hornets attempting to defend their hives from disturbances by clumsy humans.
Hornets make up the Vespa genus of insects, and are the largest type of wasp, by weight. Hornets live in various habitats around the world but for most purposes are usually divided into “European” and “Non-European” hornets.
Hornet stings are poisonous, but that poison is usually delivered in small enough amounts that it is not dangerous to humans. It would take about 1000 hornet stings to kill an adult human (500 hornet stings to kill a child). A hornet sting does not usually therefore pose a serious threat to most people, unless they have an allergy to wasp venom. Hornet stings are in general, however, much more painful than those of most wasps because the venom in a hornet sting typically contains about 5% acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps to transmit the pain signal to your brain.
Hornet stings can be more dangerous than bee stings however, when it is taken into account that a person can receive multiple hornet stings from the same insect: hornets do not die after stinging their victims (hornets have unbarbed stingers). Hornets have also been known to bite and sting their victims at the same time, however biting is not as much of a concern as a hornet sting because it delivers no venom.
How to treat a Hornet Sting
The first thing to do after you have received a hornet sting is to evacuate the area and/or make sure that there are no other hornets around. As mentioned above, you can receive more than one hornet sting from the same insect.
Next, check to see if the hornet has left it’s stinger in you. The hornet’s stinger will be small, but still visible. If you do find a stinger after getting a hornet sting, use a dull edge to remove it. Do not use tweezers. If after a hornet sting you try to remove the stinger with tweezers you could end up accidentally injecting more hornet venom into yourself. Take the edge of a credit card or a thin knife and slide the flat part against the skin where the stinger is – the stinger should pop out.
The next thing to do after a hornet sting is to apply ice to the area. This will help reduce the swelling and pain that hornet sting causes. Also consider using a topical antihistamine to reduce the pain of the hornet sting. After a hornet sting the wound site will become considerably red and swollen.
Although ice is the most common way to reduce pain after stings, probably the most effective way to reduce pain after wasp or hornet stings is WD-40. It sounds crazy, but it really works, just spray a little on the affected area and the pain should go away within a few minutes.
If your hornet sting is particularly painful you might consider taking an additional topical anesthetic or an oral analgesic (ibuprofen, etc.). After the initial pain of your hornet sting has subsided be sure to wash the area of sting regularly to avoid infection.
Important: If you have an allergy to wasp venom and you receive a hornet sting you need to seek medical attention. Hornets are wasps and a hornet sting can be more dangerous than that of a regular wasp. If you know that a hornet sting will affect you this way you should be carrying epinephrine with you at all times.
How to avoid a Hornet Sting
Of course, the only thing better than properly treating a hornet sting is to avoid getting a hornet sting in the first place. The reason most hornet stings occur is that people stray too close to the hornet’s nest. Simply avoid these places and you should be able to avoid another hornet sting. Also, if you notice that a hornet is building a nest near your home or place of work, remove it immediately. If a colony is established somewhere where you spend a lot of time, it is almost certain that you will receive a hornet sting sooner or later.