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Assuming I am not allergic, or showing signs of allergic reaction, what's the best way to treat multiple yellow jacket (a type of wasp) stings in the outdoors while hiking/backpacking?

My key concern is pain reduction, since (barring and allergic reaction) I am not returning to town for a sting. I've tried cortisone cream and it's placebo level pain reduction at best.

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    I was going to recommend that you be the one to answer this question when I saw it, and then I realized... you were the one who asked the question. Good question. – Clare Steen Feb 10 '12 at 19:54
  • @ClareSteen -- Yeah after the last time I experience yellow jackets I want a better solution. That hurt and the only blessing was the river to soak my ankles in. – Russell Steen Feb 10 '12 at 19:57
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There are several things that supposedly reduce the pain - if you have any baking soda with you (sounds silly but if you frequently get stung it may be a good idea for this reason) then mixing some in with water and applying it can reduce the sting. Note that a common misconception is that all wasp stings are alkali, and therefore vinegar should be applied - a yellow jacket's sting isn't however, it's acidic!

Antihistamines can also help with the swelling, so (barring other health complications) taking some of them should help things.

If you have nothing along those lines with you then I've seen several sources mention that a mud pack, mud mixed in with water and then applied to the wound can work well. Presumably this works best in areas where the soil is alkaline.

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Wild Plantain! I have very strong reactions to stings, but this "weed" has provided the most and swiftest pain and swelling reduction for bee/wasp stings that I have found in around 40 years of traipsing around the woods. I've been able to find it 3 seasons of the year in cities and in the country. I typically make a simple spit poultice, just chew it a bit and also that on the sting. It posseses drawing capabilities and always works for me.

Plantain leaves were used commonly in folk medicine for skin poultices on wounds, sores, or insect stings. The root was used for fever and respiratory infections. - Plantago major

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  • AFAIK, its pointed relative also works in the same way. They are abundant in middle Europe, German names are Breitwegerich and Spitzwegerich, respectively. – phipsgabler Feb 1 at 9:30
  • Cold works well. Ice cubes if you are at home, snow if you are hiking near snow, a very cold stream if one is handy. – ab2 Feb 1 at 21:25
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I have recently been stung by spider wasps ; ID is not easy as all I have seen is a small black wasp flying away. I had single stings on 4 days of a 5 day period so I could try different treatments. Very painful stings ( more than the common red wasps we have). I was surprised to find that immediate washing with soap and water was a big help , and if followed by cold compresses ,the pain was reduced and all redness and swelling were eliminated. This treatment was so successful that I did not use antihistamine at the last sting. By comparison ; for the first sting I used cold compresses, topical and internal antihistamine but had discomfort , redness and swelling of an arm for 2 days.

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  • The soap will be alkaline, which probably went a long way to helping (as well as potentially washing some of the poison out of course.) – berry120 Oct 4 '19 at 7:58
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This may be a southern US thing, but tobacco either from a cigarette or the chewing type can be used to reduce pain in a bee/wasp sting.

It can be done by getting the tip of a cigarette wet then squeezing liquid out onto the sting or by mixing the dry tobacco with water to make a paste, chewing tobacco can be used in the same way by getting it wet then applying it over the top of the sting. I have done it before when out camping and it works surprisingly well. Within a minute or two nearly all discomfort had been mitigated.

I have also heard of meat tenderizer powder, which is made from papayas, working quite well but have not tried it first hand. It could however be carried in a small container quite easily.

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