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Three hornet bites have the potential to kill an adult. This saying is still known today and stubbornly sticks in people's minds. Although hornets are equipped with a powerful sting, these large insects are extremely peaceful animals. If you or your loved ones have been stung by one or more hornets, you should still use first aid to relieve symptoms.

hornet bite

How dangerous is a hornet bite?

Hornets have a bad reputation. The wasps of the genus Vespa are significantly larger than wasps and bees, measuring between 2.5 centimeters for workers and 3.5 centimeters for queens. Due to their body size and their similarity to wasps, they appear dangerous and aggressive to humans. However, hornets are extremely peace loving animalswho just want to be left alone and bite less often than their relatives. In most cases, a hornet sting is less dangerous than that of a bee or wasp.

Hornet, Vespa crabro


The venom content of the hornet venom is lower than that of wasps and bees. That means the stings aren't as dangerous as their smaller relatives. However, the venom contains an extremely high amount of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine provides the pain caused by the sting. Due to the acetylcholine content, hornet stings hurt much more intensely than those of a wasp, but the pain subsides more quickly.

amount of poison

Since the sting is very long at 3.4 to 3.7 millimeters, it penetrates deeper into the skin. However, since it does not remain in the skin, only a small amount of venom is injected through the sting. In addition, hornets regulate the amount of poison because they don't have that much available and have to have it ready for defense. It is not known after how many bites the Vespa crabro, the only native species in Central Europe, causes a lethal dose.

In the case of the oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis), for example, about 300 stings are necessary to poison a human with a fatal outcome.
In addition, hornets are extremely stinging Rare. Since they are not among the most aggressive insects, certain requirements must be met before a sting occurs. Two scenarios can be mentioned:

  • the nest is threatened
  • Hornet is crushed and cannot escape

Allergic reaction

The animals only care about the survival of the colony. This means that if you stay away from the nests and do not disturb the animals when they are foraging, you will not get bitten. Especially people with an allergy to insect venom should observe these safety measures. The allergens in hornet venom can cause a variety of allergic reactions to lead:

  • burning pain around the sting
  • swelling
  • redness
  • shortness of breath

Depending on the intensity of the allergy, it occurs within a short time hives or severe shortness of breath until death. In extreme cases, just one stitch is sufficient. The symptoms in allergy sufferers and healthy people are the same, only healthy people who have been bitten are not plagued by shortness of breath or hives. However, you must be careful not to get stung in the face, mouth, throat or throat. This can also lead to shortness of breath, since the poison has the strongest effect there. Any swelling can have a negative effect on your breathing. With the information below, you can provide first aid immediately after a hornet sting.

tip: Compared to wasps, hornets do not fly at people and tend to keep their distance. For this reason, in many cases, the animals only sting when there is a direct threat from humans or their pets.

Symptoms & First Aid

Treating a harmless hornet sting is easier than you think. Compared to mosquito or tick bites, you'll know right away when a hornet has bitten you as the pain can be excruciating. Next to the intense pain, which is stronger than that of a wasp, a sting has other visual signs in addition to the above symptoms:

  • Swelling turns red
  • red dot in the middle (puncture site)
  • Halo in white around the puncture site
  • gets hot
  • itching that lasts for a few days
  • Swellings can be as large as hailstones

Depending on the intensity of the sting and the location on the body, the swelling can last up to 24 hours. You should not scratch the sting during this time, as this can lead to an open wound, which increases the risk of infection. Once a sting has occurred, you should act as quickly as possible to relieve the pain and contact qualified personnel if necessary.

First aid measures

When treating hornet bites, the following measures will help:

1. Disinfect

  • Apply disinfectant spray for the skin directly or via a cotton pad

2. Cooling

  • Wound can become very hot, itchy and burns
  • Urged to scratch very high
  • cool envelopes, ice cubes or wrapped cold packs prevent this
  • Alternatively, use gels or pens from pharmacies or drugstores with a cooling effect

3. Ointments

  • Systral and Fenistil restrict production of histamines
  • suppress itching and burning.
  • apply after cooling for particularly painful stings

4. Envelopes

  • Cottage cheese wrap or envelope with aluminum diacetate (acetic alumina)
  • Wrap around affected area and leave there for some time

5. Consult a doctor in an emergency

If the person has been stung on the outside or inside in the following places, you should see a doctor immediately:

  • neck
  • throat
  • mouth

The doctor makes sure that swelling does not block the airway and cause suffocation. If necessary, cover the victim's throat with an ice-cold compress and administer ice cubes. The ice cubes are sucked and relieve possible swelling, while the poultice protects against possible swelling in the throat.

6. Allergy sufferers

If the person who has been bitten is allergic, it is important to act quickly. Contact the emergency doctor immediately and don't leave the allergy sufferer's side. Administer appropriate medication if the allergy was known in advance.

If the symptoms of the sting do not subside after 48 to 72 hours, it is advisable to consult a doctor. The possibility of infection is then quite high.

tip: If you have been stung by a striped insect and the stinger remains in your skin, it is strictly a bee sting. Compared to wasps, hornets, and bumblebees, bees' abdomens do not have enough muscle mass to retain the stinger in the abdomen, eventually leading to the animals' deaths.

Alternative: Sting Healer

In contrast to the above first aid measures for a hornet sting, you should think about using a sting healer. These are very good for allergy sufferers as they stop the allergens from spreading further through the bloodstream, which is the cause of an allergic reaction. The sting healers treat the sting site in two different ways:

1. Electric

Electric stitch healers are usually cheaper. They generate electrical impulses that stop the transport of toxins. To do this, place it directly on the stab wound and it draws the poison out of the body via the impulses. However, this method is quite time-consuming, since it has to be used between 20 and 30 times. In addition, every actuation feels like a small prick, since it is electricity. Electrical stitch healers are not particularly suitable for allergy sufferers, as they take far too long.

2. Thermal

Thermally effective sting healers use a high temperature in the range of 50 °C to neutralize the protein components within the poison. They can also be applied directly to the sting site and heat it up for a brief moment. Thermal Sting Healers allow you to treat a sting instantly, as it only takes one application to destroy the dangerous allergens. This makes them particularly effective for allergy sufferers and children, so that the pain subsides more quickly.

A big advantage of Sting Healers is their compact size. They are usually offered in the size of a pen and are ideal for storing in a first aid kit, in the car or in a handbag. This means you have the device quickly at hand.

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