A hornet sting causes pain and swelling due to venom which is injected into the affected area. A hornet sting is more painful than a typical wasp sting because it contains acetylcholine. Since the stinger of a hornet is not barbed, it is able to sting multiple times. Hornets and yellowjackets are in the same sub family and are often confused for one another. The best way to tell them apart is by the size and color of the insect. Yellowjackets are slightly larger than a typical housefly and have black bodies with yellow stripes. Hornets are much larger and tend to have yellow and brown coloring.
In most cases a single hornet sting is not life threatening. Pain and swelling caused by the hornet sting should diminish in a couple of days. However, if a person is allergic a single sting can be a very serious problem. Signs of an allergic reaction include swelling of the mouth, throat, and chest, difficulty breathing, and headaches. If left untreated, this can lead to death. Also, if a non-allergic person receives a large amount of venom through multiple stings, they may experience similar symptoms.
Applying an ice pack will reduce swelling, and over the counter pain medication is usually sufficient to take the edge off the pain. If the stinger remains lodged in the skin it should be removed. When removing the stinger do not pinch it to pull it out. This can squeeze more venom into the wound. The best way to remove the stinger is to scrape it out with a fingernail or a thin metal object. If the person is allergic, seek medical attention immediately. Also, check to see if they have an epinephrine pen. This is a shot that counteracts the allergic reaction. Medical attention should also be sought if a person has received multiple hornet stings and is experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction.