Am I overreacting to a yellow jacket sting?
September 15, 2009 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Is this yellow jacket sting normal? I have a doctor's appointment for later today. I'm not sure if I'm overreacting. I know my histamine response is! Pics and

I had never been stung by anything before. I got stung on the back of the calf on Sunday, mid-morning. That makes today Day 3 (Day 2, Day 1), and the itching is unbearable and there is still a lot of swelling and inflammation. My dad got stung 5 times and his itch, but are getting better. My wife got stung 4 times and hers are almost gone (even one on her thumb). Mine just seems to get worse and worse.

I read this bee sting thread, but I know yellow jackets are supposed to be worse. The swelling extends about 1 inch from the sting site on all sides, and then the inflammation spreads about 6 inches down my leg. What's the worst that can happen? What will the doctor do? Am I better off just taking a bunch of Benadryl and toughing it out, or is my leg gonna fall off?

(Possibly useful information: I'm the girl who gets eaten alive by all bugs, no matter how much DEET I have on, and swell up around the bites and itch for days. I've spent at least half of every recent vacation in a Benadryl haze. Chiggers, mosquitoes, no-see-ums -- they ALL love me!)
posted by fiercecupcake to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
If you're seeing your doctor, you should be okay. Generally, if you're allergic to stings, the first bite isn't the one that's going to be a huge problem, it's subsequent stings and bites that are worrisome.

When I have an allergic reaction, my airways close and I feel a total sense of dread (even if I'm not aware that I've come into contact with the thing I'm allergic to), so I know to grab the Epi-Pen. Check with your doctor to see if s/he thinks this is overboard for a sting, and if so, get a test to see if you have allergies.
posted by xingcat at 6:50 AM on September 15, 2009

I had a beesting on my lip when I was a child that got about as inflamed as yours (24 hours later the whole left side of my face was swollen out). The doctor is probably going to prescribe Benadryl (my pediatrician did), but you should still see a doctor so they can get you the prescription-strength.

You most likely won't die (I obviously didn't), but yeah, see a doctor just in case. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:52 AM on September 15, 2009

Oh, and FYI -- I think I've been stung once since then, took a Benadryl right away and was fine. So this may not necessarily be a harbinger of "omigod I have to carry an Epi-pen everywhere now". I just note it on my medical history as a "strong local reaction" to a beesting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on September 15, 2009

I was recently stung on the ankle around 4 or 5 times by those little bastards (along with a sting on my hip and shoulder blade) so I feel your pain. It wasn't until the 3rd or 4th day before I saw a lot of improvement. My foot had swollen up to point where it looked like a Hickory Farms Summer Sausage. I went to the doctor for a previous sting and all he recommended was ice and standard OTC anti-inflammatories.

The best medicine was hiring someone to hunt down those little bastards in the mole hole in our backyard where they had taken up residence. Best money I spent all summer.
posted by mmascolino at 7:07 AM on September 15, 2009

Pshaw. That's nothing compared to the what the yellow jackets just did to my ass. In my case (and probably yours) it was multiple bites by one wasp. I had a massive (grapefruit sized) raised, hot hard whitish welt with a red border for quite some time. It was unbelievably painful and mania-inducingly itchy as it healed. Still have a small red mark (hope it's not permanent). I'm otherwise fine with bugs. As long as you never felt any itching or closing sensations in your throat you're probably OK. Take a close look and see if there's multiple little puncture wounds. Never a bad thing to set your mind at ease with a doc visit though! Evil wasps.
posted by Go Banana at 7:08 AM on September 15, 2009

It might be infected, causing cellulitis (is it hot to touch?) - in which case a course of antibiotics will put you right. You're doing the right thing by going to the doc. My husband had an infected bite, and it was horrible but it did get better in time.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:15 AM on September 15, 2009

I'm allergic and I get significantly worse swelling than that. Regardless, this is not the place to go for medical advice. Your doctor will know what's up.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 7:42 AM on September 15, 2009

Is that a white center on it in Day 3? It looks like its getting infected.
Not normal.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:56 AM on September 15, 2009

Yeah, the whitehead is a bit of a red flag. You might need oral antibiotics, you might just need bacitracin. Only a doctor can tell for sure. So, go!

Feel better!
posted by Citrus at 8:06 AM on September 15, 2009

The next time something stings you, make a paste of MSG (from the spice aisle) and water and plaster it on the bite, cover it with a gauze pad and tape it down. This always worked on DD#2 who reacted horribly to any and all bug bites. Keep Benedryl tablets on hand to alleviate the allergic reaction and one of those tubes of bug bite soother like Benedryl or AfterBite. This is, of course, if you're NOT having a life threatening reaction. If the doctor suspects you might be prone to bee sting allergy, get an EpiPen and carry it everywhere with you in a place you can get at it easily. You don't want to be fumbling through stuff looking for an EpiPen. And, the next time, keep it clean so it doesn't get infected. If you can't stand to touch it, an antibiotic spray works.
posted by x46 at 10:03 AM on September 15, 2009

i got one just like this on my chest when a hornet flew into my open jersey while i was cycling. it looked like yours and lasted a long, itchy time. i got the little pimple thing too. there's a small scar there now. i didn't seek help but it sucked mildly for about a week.
posted by klanawa at 10:10 AM on September 15, 2009

The last time the little wretches stung me (unprovoked!) it looked just like that, itched just like that, and went away with no real issues. Bactine helped the itching immensely.
posted by bunji at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2009

IANAD, but it looks infected. I had a similar one a few years back. I was cleaning up a site and got stung on the forearm by a red wasp. The doctor theorized that the sting must have pushed some of the grime from the cleanup down into the wound. But, whatever the cause, it was infected and oral antibiotics were the cure. But it could have gotten serious if I hadn't gone in for treatment.
posted by wheat at 1:20 PM on September 15, 2009

A steroid shot might help you get over it. It helped my gigantic bee sting. By the way it was several weeks before the swelling was completely gone. Go to the doctor.
posted by tamitang at 10:35 PM on September 15, 2009


I didn't die. I did have a big ol' welt that got worse and worse for a month, and I did have to keep ice on it at all times for that month. (When the ice pack would get warm halfway through the night the itching would be bad enough to wake me up.)

I went to the doc after I posted this. Week of prednisone + super antihistamine, horrible horrible anxiety from prednisone. Little effect on sting.

After the week of prednisone, went back for a cortisone shot. Immediate effect of reducing the itching by half -- then it was back with full force about 6 hours later.

Gave up. Continued icing it. It had another week of misery left in it and then it just plumb wore out.

I now carry an Epi-Pen (in case my reaction is more severe next time) and have a few prednisone to tide me over till I can get to the doctor. He hopes that if we get going on it the day of the sting it might not be so bad.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2010

Thanks for the followup. I'm glad it is finally better.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:59 PM on June 25, 2010

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