Hornet sting - that's how dangerous it is!


A hornet sting occurs when you are stung by a hornet.
It is a wasp species about 2.5 centimeters tall, which is native to Germany and is one of the particularly protected animal species. Contrary to its reputation, the hornet is a peace-loving animal that only stings when it feels threatened or when it is defending its nest.

A hornet sting is usually very painful, but usually harmless. Compared to a normal wasp sting or bee sting, the poison transmitted by a hornet sting is even less powerful. A hornet sting is only dangerous if you have a sting in the larynx or if you are allergic to insect venom.

This is how dangerous a hornet sting can be for a person

In many cases the myth persists that seven or even three hornet stings can be fatal for a person. However, this is wrong because hornet stings are no more dangerous than other insect stings. Hundreds of stitches would have to take place before a person is in danger of death.

However, there are two exceptions:

  • For people who are allergic to insect venom, just one bite can be very dangerous.
  • There is also danger if the hornet stings in the mouth or throat.

However, since hornets are less likely to be attracted to sweet foods such as cake or ice cream, the risk of suffering such a dangerous sting is lower with hornets than with a normal wasp, for example.

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Can a hornet sting also be fatal?

A hornet sting is usually harmless. The insect venom is even significantly less toxic than that of a bee. Usually there is only a painful swelling in the area of ​​the puncture. Fatal outcome is possible, but extremely rare.

On the one hand, life can be in danger if the insect stings in the area of ​​the larynx or throat and the airways swell so much that you can no longer breathe. If no medical treatment is given, in the worst case scenario one can suffocate as a result. However, the risk of such a dramatic course is lower with a hornet sting than, for example, a wasp or bee sting.

A sting can also be life-threatening if you have an allergic reaction and drug treatment is not given in time. If you have a known allergy, you should always carry emergency medication with you so that you can use them in good time if you have a hornet sting.

Also read: Allergy emergency kit

When should i see a doctor?

Usually you don't need to see a doctor if you have a hornet sting. The painful swelling can be treated well with home remedies and, if necessary, an antipruritic ointment.
However, a doctor should be consulted if the hornet sting occurs in the mouth, throat or pharynx. Due to the swelling of the mucous membranes, the airways can be closed and in the worst case there is a risk of suffocation.

Also, people who experience an allergic reaction to a wasp sting should see a doctor. In the best case, emergency medication is carried and used. If this is not the case, an emergency doctor should be alerted immediately if an allergic reaction due to a wasp sting occurs.

You might also be interested in this topic: Allergy to bee venom

Causes of a hornet sting

Contrary to their reputation, hornets are peaceful animals that do not become aggressive and sting for no reason. Even when they feel threatened, they usually choose to escape rather than intervention. One of the reasons a hornet stings is usually because the animal is constricted and feels threatened.

In addition, hornets defend their nests and their queen by attacking and stinging supposed attackers. Therefore, one should avoid the vicinity of a hornet's nest. You shouldn't hit the bugs or behave hectically either.

The cause of the painful swelling that occurs with a hornet sting is due to the effect of the poison released by the long sting. The pain is usually stronger than with a normal wasp sting, despite the lower poisonous effect, which is due to the effect of the messenger substance Acetylcholine is based. In addition, hornets with their long sting penetrate deeper layers of the skin than normal wasps or bees.

I recognize a hornet sting by these symptoms

A hornet sting causes severe pain and leads to redness and swelling in the area of ​​the puncture site. Usually there is also severe itching.
However, the symptoms are the same as general ones that can be caused by the sting of various insects such as wasps or bees. It is therefore usually not possible to distinguish a hornet sting from another insect bite based on the symptoms. The hornet sting tends to cause particularly severe pain.

In addition, a hornet does not shed its sting when it stings. If a sting is found in the puncture site, it is more likely to be a bee sting than a hornet sting, for example.

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This is how I recognize an allergic reaction after a hornet sting

If you - like two out of 100 people in Germany - have an allergic reaction to a hornet table, symptoms appear in the form of an immediate reaction. This leads to severe swelling of the puncture site, shortness of breath and a racing heart.
Nausea, difficulty swallowing and dizziness may also occur. Hives with wheals all over the body can also appear within a short time.

A normal, non-allergic reaction to an insect bite, on the other hand, is limited to the puncture site and only leads to swelling and pain there, without the accompanying symptoms mentioned occurring.

In extreme cases, however, an allergic reaction can even lead to circulatory failure and respiratory failure and is therefore an emergency. If an allergic reaction to a hornet sting occurs, an emergency doctor should be contacted immediately (Call 112). If the person concerned is already known to have an allergy, they should ideally have emergency medication with them, which should be administered before the emergency doctor arrives.

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That's how bad the pain is

Pain is a feeling that can be very different from one individual to the next, so that no general statement can be made about how severe the pain caused by a hornet sting is.
In addition, some parts of the body are more sensitive to pain than others, so that the discomfort caused depends to a large extent on the location of the sting.

In most cases, however, a hornet sting is quite painful and more intense than the sting of a bee or wasp, for example. However, this is not due to the poison (hornet venom is even weaker than bee venom), but rather to the longer sting of the large hornets. With this they penetrate deeper into the skin, so that deeper pain receptors are also irritated. In addition, when stinging, hornets release the messenger substance acetylcholine which also leads to an amplification of the pain signal.

That's how long the pain lasts

How long the pain lasts after a hornet sting depends on various factors.
On the one hand, the duration depends on the location of the sting and, on the other hand, on the amount of poison secreted by the insect. The sting itself usually causes a bright, sharp pain. Due to the effect of the poison and the messenger substance acetylcholine, dull, throbbing pains soon set in a.
The symptoms usually persist for a few days and slowly subside. However, various measures such as cooling the affected area can alleviate the pain. In the case of particularly severe pain, an anti-inflammatory pain pill can also be taken for a short time.

This is what first aid looks like

Special first aid in the case of a hornet sting is usually not necessary, as in the vast majority of cases it subsides again without any treatment and is completely harmless. So you should stay calm at first. A sting does not usually have to be removed after an insect bite, as the animal usually keeps it. However, if a stinger is stuck in the skin, it is carefully removed with tweezers. One should pay attention to the Do not squeeze the stingso that no more poison gets into the skin.

The injection site should then be cooled to relieve pain and swelling.

Urgent first aid measures are only required if the person concerned suffers from an insect venom allergy or if a sting in the throat leads to breathing difficulties. In both cases it is also important to keep calm and to call an emergency doctor. Emergency medication that may be carried along should be given to a person with a known allergy.

Read also: Insect bite - first aid and emergency measures

Treatment of a hornet sting

Although a hornet sting is usually particularly painful, it is no more dangerous than a bee or wasp sting. A special therapy is therefore usually not necessary and the reaction to the hornet sting usually develops even without any treatment measure back within a few days without consequences.

However, since symptoms such as itching, swelling and pain are often very pronounced, symptomatic treatment is recommended. The best measure to alleviate all of the symptoms mentioned is cooling with an ice pack wrapped in a kitchen towel, for example. In addition, the affected area should be stored up if possible.
An ointment with an antipruritic agent from the pharmacy can also be applied. Otherwise, scratching will delay healing.
Special therapy is only required in the event of an allergic reaction or, if necessary, a sting in the respiratory tract. Various medications are available to curb the excessive reaction to the insecticide.

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These home remedies can help with hornet stings

There are several home remedies that can provide relief after a hornet sting by relieving pain and reducing swelling.
The possible home remedies correspond to those that can generally be used for insect bites. However, there are no special home remedies that are only aimed at hornet stings. It has proven useful to place a freshly sliced ​​half of the onion on the affected area immediately after the sting. A compress with ice cubes also provides relief through cooling.
Other possible home remedies that can be used for a hornet sting are quark or clay, both of which are also best used in the form of an envelope.

Also read: Home remedies for a wasp sting

Duration and prognosis of a hornet sting

The duration of a hornet sting is generally no longer than that of a wasp or bee sting, despite the usually particularly severe pain. Usually within a week there is a significant decrease in swelling and a decrease in symptoms. In some cases, it can take up to two weeks for the hornet sting to completely subside.

The prognosis is usually very good. A hornet sting almost always heals without any consequential damage. In some cases, a small scar remains, which can especially happen if the sting is scratched open. If you are allergic to insect bites, the prognosis is different. Often this lasts for a lifetime. In some cases, however, this can also be successfully treated with special therapy.

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Course of disease

The course of the disease with a hornet sting is usually characterized by more severe pain than, for example, a bee or wasp sting, but as with all insect bites it is limited in time and inexpensive.
The pain and swelling are usually greatest in the first few days after the event and slowly go away. It can take up to two weeks for the sting to completely heal. The course of the disease can be favorably influenced by various measures such as cooling and storage. Frequent scratching at the puncture site, on the other hand, delays healing.


The diagnosis of a hornet sting can basically only be made if the person affected has been able to identify and observe a hornet as the cause.
Based on the sting reaction itself, no statement can be made about the type of insect that caused it. A possible sting in the puncture site can exclude a hornet as the cause, since only bees shed their sting, but it is hardly possible to distinguish between a wasp or hornet sting.
Other methods such as a blood test to diagnose a hornet sting are not possible and would also be superfluous. The only diagnostic measure that could be useful in the event of a violent reaction to the hornet sting would be an allergy test for insect venom.

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