pain of a wasp sting

Do you know a remedy to ease the pain of a wasp sting? One reader found an old-fashioned solution to this problem at What have you found?

Sliced Onion for the Pain of a Wasp Sting:

Q. I was walking barefoot in my kitchen when I stepped on a wasp. I figured I was in trouble. I was stung for the first time ever a few days ago. My arm swelled so much I looked like Popeye the sailor man. It was horribly sore for a whole week.

So when I stepped on the wasp minutes ago, I immediately searched your website for a remedy. I read that a fresh cut onion could ease the pain, So I grabbed an onion slice and tied it to my foot with a plastic bag. Within a minute the pain was gone. I’m going to leave the onion in place a little longer in the hope that it will prevent swelling.

Onion to Counteract a Sting:

A. More than 30 years ago we heard from a reader of this column that an onion might help ease the inflammation and pain of a wasp sting. He credited his German neighbor lady with “suggesting a cut onion be applied to the sting for at least 10 minutes.”

At the time, we’d not heard of such a remedy. To learn more, we checked with an expert in onion chemistry, Dr. Eric Block, of the State University of New York at Albany. He confirmed that fresh cut onions contain an enzyme that can break down pro-inflammatory chemicals.

Other Approaches to Calm the Pain of a Wasp Sting:

There are other remedies that can help a wasp sting if you don’t have an onion handy. You might try meat tenderizer mixed with water. A paste of baking soda and water or vinegar may also help. You will find these and dozens more simple treatments for common ailments in our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It is available at

Watch Out for Allergic Reactions:

Do keep in mind that an allergic reaction to a wasp sting can be extremely dangerous. Another reader had a very frightening experience.

Q. A person recently wrote to you about a wasp sting. Although you mentioned the risk of anaphylactic shock in your response, I think you should have informed the writer that the next sting could be fatal.

I was stung by a wasp and my hand swelled. Two weeks later, I was stung again and immediately took a Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and put ice on my forehead. Within minutes, I was on the floor with no pulse or blood pressure.

Thanks to the Benadryl and to the paramedics who started two IVs before they got a 40/20 blood pressure reading, I am alive to tell about it. Since your writer had a severe reaction, it is obvious that she has an allergy to wasps and her next sting might be fatal. She and your other readers should be informed of this.

Evaluation Is Essential:

A. It can be difficult to determine when someone will develop anaphylactic shock in response to a sting. That said, you are right that the next sting might be fatal.

We urge anyone who has experienced a serious reaction to a sting to be evaluated by a physician. For those who are at risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis, keeping an EpiPen for self injection can be life saving. Even after an injection with this prescription epinephrine, emergency medical treatment must be summoned.

Other Readers Offer Their Stories:

Many other readers have had serious reactions, underscoring the importance of being prepared.

RMH was saved by the EMT team:

“Several years ago I was stung by two wasps. I had anaphylactic reaction; luckily the EMT boys knew what to do, and by the time I got to the hospital, I was fully treated. The hospital ER verified this (for $1600.00) and I was released immediately.

“Since then I keep Epi-Pens in both cars, the house, and shaving kit (for travel). I’ve been stung once since then-at a fellow’s house looking at welding equipment. I immediately injected myself with the Epi-Pen, drove to the nearest EMT (about 9 miles), and sat in their facility until the reaction time had passed, then went home without any problems.”

MMM also had a scary situation:

“Although a person may experience a moderate reaction to a first sting, if you are so predisposed, any/all subsequent stings may result in death, predicated on the severity of the sting. I did not know I was this allergic, backed into a wasp nest and was stung 3 times. We headed home and, luckily, there was a hospital within a few minutes of there. My hands and feet started tingling, then I got a pounding headache. When my husband noticed, I had turned beet red.

“The tingling was due to anaphylaxis and constriction of blood vessels to the extremities. We rushed to the hospital and I was shot up with epinephrine and given benadryl. I would have been dead in 20 minutes.

“Be tested for this allergic reaction. Turns out I am allergic to bees, wasps and hornets and ALL mixed vespids. I took shots for 5 years, carry benadryl and an epipen. Only true test is to be stung again.

“For anyone who has experienced a reaction, it is imperative to find out if you too have this allergy. Turns out my mother and sister have the same allergy. For a honeybee sting, use a comb to whisk out the stinger. If you grab it, it will pinch out more venom. I love to garden and bees abound, so it is best to know if you are allergic, just in case!”

SPE saved her husband’s life:

“My husband has been stung by a wasp multiple times over the years. Two years ago, he had a wasp sting on the temple, started tingling and sweating, took 100mg Benadryl due to the severe oncoming reaction. Within minutes, he had a seizure and completely lost consciousness, loss urinary function, no pupil reaction, no BP or pulse. Luckily I was at home and am an RN. I immediately called 911 and worked with him for 20 minutes waiting for the rescue squad and EMS.

“We live in the county and EMS was on another call. It was a horrible experience. If I had not been home, he would not be here today. He was awake by the time EMS arrived; benadryl and quick response saved his live.

“We waited weeks before allergy testing (to eliminate a false + reading). He is highly allergic to wasp, moderately allergy to yellow jackets and other bees. He also keeps Epi-Pens in his vehicle, the house, and shaving kit. Do not take a chance with bee or wasp stings; you never know when a reaction will be severe.”

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  1. Berryman

    I have successfully applied chopped onion (they’re juicier this way) on at least three occasions, wasp, yellow jacket and Hummel bees. The pain is gone within a few minutes every time.

  2. Annie

    I have a reaction to wasp stings, not life-threatening (so far) but painful and extremely irritating. I read that putting a copper coin (in US a penny, in NZ a 10c coin) over the sting and holding or taping it down firmly can help and I believe it does, don’t ask me why??!! It is particularly useful in small children who seem to stop crying and are fascinated by the money being taped down. I follow it up with antihistamine tablets as the allergic reaction and itching to follow are worse than the sting.

  3. Gerry

    Had a wasp sting and put ammonia on it and headed to E.R. My doc told me to keep benedryl capsules around at all times, crack one between teeth and let powder flow over and under tongue; used subsequently and staved off anaphylatic reaction long enough to get to hospital.

    Other stinging and biting insects also affect me strongly, the little green headed flies we have here in Inverness Fl make me swell up like I have hives. Peroxide helps too.

  4. Jenny

    We have used an open date of bee stings with much sucsess. (in case of allergy, use Epi-pen, as explained above).
    Onion also does wonders on burns and cuts.

  5. Mary

    Another remedy that I have found for wasp stings is to rub AVON Skin So Soft on the sting. It relieves the pain and keeps down swelling.

  6. Judy

    I had an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting. My blood pressure was 60/30 and the ER gave me intravenous Benadryl. I went to an allergist afterwards and tested positive for honeybees, yellow jackets, and some kinds of hornets.

    I had shots for about six years and they helped, as I was stung a few times and had only local reactions. But this year the serum became unavailable so I haven’t had any shots since January. My allergist says that since I had an anaphylactic reaction I shouldn’t stop the shots, but I haven’t heard that the supply is back. I’m just hoping the years of shots gave me some permanent protection.

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