Swelling after a wasp sting

Why does the swelling occur?

In the case of a wasp sting, insect venom is released into the puncture site. This poison contains numerous protein molecules that are perceived by the body as foreign.
The immune system of the human body is designed to initiate an immune reaction against foreign substances penetrating from the outside. So there is a defense reaction of the immune system which normally concentrates exclusively on the area of ​​the bite.
Shortly after the bite, the proteins contained in the insect venom, including histamine, lead to a local reaction that manifests itself as redness, swelling and pain. The swelling that occurs after a wasp sting is mainly due to the proteins contained in the poison. The body's own immune system, which reacts with defense against foreign toxins, can also have a small share in the swelling.
If there is excessive swelling or other symptoms such as shortness of breath, palpitations or circulatory failure, this indicates an insect venom allergy. The immune system reacts excessively and allergic shock (anaphylactic shock) can occur.

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What can I do about swelling?

There are numerous home remedies that can be effective for treating the skin symptoms after a wasp sting.
Immediate local application of heat up to 50 ° C has proven to be an effective means. As a result, the proteins contained in the poison and released into the body with the bite are destroyed (denatured) so that they cannot develop their effect sufficiently. Swelling, redness and pain are less severe. Such a local application of heat can be done, for example, with a teaspoon warmed in a water bath.
To avoid burns, however, the temperature of the spoon should be carefully tested beforehand. There are also so-called stitch healers in stores. These are small, battery-operated devices that generate heat at the push of a button and can be held on for a few seconds.

Applying cold shortly after the bite also prevents the swelling from increasing significantly. Cold packs are ideal for this, which can be wrapped in a cloth and placed on the affected area. Cooling quark compresses or rubbing in a freshly cut half of an onion can also help against the swelling.

Read more on the topic: Home remedies for a wasp sting

Concomitant symptoms

After a wasp sting, there is usually a locally limited skin reaction.
In addition to the swelling, there is reddening of the puncture site and the surrounding skin. The area is painful and itching often occurs shortly after the bite. People with an insect venom allergy can experience life-threatening symptoms. These can be indicated by shortness of breath, circulatory problems and pronounced swelling.

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The sting itself is usually painful. But even after the bite, the local reaction usually results in swelling and redness in the area of ​​the puncture site, pain in the area of ​​the affected skin.
The pain usually subsides after a few hours. Cooling the puncture site and using home remedies such as essential oils, vinegar wraps, or honey can relieve the pain.


Itching is also a typical symptom that occurs in the context of wasp stings.
At first there is painful local swelling and redness. Itching often occurs after a few minutes to hours. This is also triggered by the proteins such as histamine contained in the insect venom. The home remedies mentioned are also effective at least to a limited extent against itching.

Also read about how to avoid a wasp sting: Home remedies for wasps


The redness around the puncture site is a typical symptom after a wasp sting.
The four signs of inflammation are redness, swelling, pain, and restricted mobility. The restriction of movement is usually of minor importance with a wasp sting. However, if the sting is localized, for example, in the area of ​​one of the finger joints, it can also be accompanied by a restriction of movement. The redness, like the other symptoms of inflammation, is triggered by the substances contained in the insect venom and by the response of the immune system.

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How long does the swelling last?

The swelling and reddening in the area of ​​the wasp sting are symptoms that occur as part of the acute reaction. Just like pain and itching, they usually subside after about 24 hours, even without specific treatment.
The local application of cold can help to speed up the reduction in the swelling. Local application of heat, for example in the form of a sting healer, can also help to limit the swelling from the very beginning.

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How can I tell the difference between the swelling and an allergy?

With a normal reaction to a wasp sting, localized reddening and swelling occurs, which is accompanied by pain and itching.
The swelling will usually go away slowly around 24 hours after the event. Such a normal reaction of the body to a wasp sting should be distinguished from excessive reactions of the immune system. An overreaction of the immune system is called an allergy. The immune system reacts more strongly than it should react and various allergic symptoms occur. The maximum variant of such an overreaction of the immune system is the so-called allergic or anaphylactic shock. This can occur in people with an insect venom allergy after a wasp sting.

Shortly after the wasp sting, there may be severe swelling in the area of ​​the sting. In addition, symptoms such as shortness of breath, diarrhea and vomiting and circulatory problems such as a drop in blood pressure or even complete circulatory failure can occur. If the first signs of an excessive allergic reaction appear, the emergency services should be informed immediately or a doctor should be consulted. The doctor will then administer appropriate emergency medication. Known insect venom allergy sufferers also usually have an emergency kit with them that contains appropriate medication. These must then be administered by the person concerned or by those present.
In addition to this maximum variant of the allergic reaction, a locally limited overreaction of the immune system can also occur. This overreaction can be shown by the fact that the area of ​​the sting swells and is reddened far beyond the sting area. In such a situation, it can be helpful to take antiallergic drugs, which contain the allergic reaction and cause swelling and redness to decrease rapidly.

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In which parts of the body is the swelling particularly severe?

If there is a normal reaction after a wasp sting, the swelling is usually localized and rather small. However, depending on which area of ​​the body is affected, the swelling may be felt to be more or less severe.
For example, if the eyelid is affected, even a slight swelling can be very pronounced because vision can be impaired. Swelling in the area of ​​the oral mucosa or tongue can also be perceived as very uncomfortable and large. If there is no excessive allergic reaction, the extent of the swelling usually hardly differs from body part to body part.

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