Q. I got stung by a red wasp yesterday and it felt like someone jabbed me with a hot poker. I’d forgotten how bad the pain from a wasp sting could be!

I remember my child’s pediatrician telling me to keep meat tenderizer in a first aid kit for stings. I found some tenderizer and added water to make a paste. As soon as I daubed it on, it took away that intense pain almost instantly. I don’t think it helped the swelling but it really helped the pain.

Today the sting site is bright red and very swollen, about the size of a tennis ball. It is also very itchy and sore. I’ll try putting cut onion on it when I get home.

A. Meat tenderizer contains papain, an enzyme from the papaya that helps break down protein. Doctors have recommended applying it to stings for years so that the papain can break down the venom.

Your reaction sounds exceptionally severe. It is unlikely that a cut onion will work so long after the sting. You should discuss your reaction with your physician in case you are becoming allergic to wasp stings.

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  1. Vanna

    Just had a recent experience with insect bites and used Adolph’s when my kids were little so I went to get some; apparently the company has replaced the papain (papaya) with bromelain, which is said to come from pineapples. I think the key here is that what is used to tenderize is protein enzymes from the leaves; if I remember correctly what is happening is that the water/tenderizer paste is breaking down the insect saliva used to numb the bite area, which later itches due to what’s in the saliva. Also, in 1979 I moved into a home with a garden out back; I got stung by a wasp on a doorknob and my dad ran out back and got tomato leaves and crushed them. By morning I could hardly see where I’d been stung and it stopped itching right away; probably due to enzymes also.

  2. SJ

    At age 6 months, I was stung by a wasp on the eyelid. My parents and grandparents only knew to apply tobacco or snuff.
    As the tobacco products could not be placed on a baby’s eyelid, I was rushed to the doctor’s office.
    He took one look at me and said, “Apply chilled Witch Hazel with a white cloth.” At the time, my dad used Witch Hazel as an after shave application; therefore, all the family needed to do was to place it in the ice box and apply Witch Hazel every time the cloth dried out. I am told that they knew when the cloth was dry because I would cry.
    Mother chilled the Witch Hazel in an ice box. Needless to say, I am 71 years old now. We did not have a refrigerator then.
    There’s been a bottle of Witch Hazel in the refrigerator door for as long as I can remember. A bottle still costs less than $2.00. Witch Hazel is also good to apply to insect bites, i.e., mosquitoes.
    Over the years, Witch Hazel has been used numerous times for bee stings and insect bites.

  3. Judge PW

    I am a fisherman. I keep Adolph’s unseasoned tenderizer in my tackle box at all times. Remember, only the unseasoned type is effective.

  4. sls

    I have used ice to reduce swelling of wasp and bee stings. Another thing I have used is grated potato to draw the wasp substance out of the body. This even worked after being stung 5 days prior.

  5. Jennifer B.

    The swimming pool we joined keeps meat tenderizer at their snack bar for just these types of situations.
    We’ve belonged there for several years now and they’ve never changed to anything else, which might suggest that it’s a very effective treatment. At this time of year there is a steady stream of bee victims at our pool due to the heavily flowered landscape.

  6. cpmt

    Soy sauce is good for burn pain and swelling, maybe it can also help with your swollen area?

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