Yellow jacket stings are very similar to other hornet and bee stings. Yellow jackets are known for invading picnics, and are often called ‘meat wasps’. These insects are territorial and become aggressive around their nests or possible food sources. A single yellow jacket can sting multiple times, and since they live in colonies it is not uncommon to be attacked by many of them at once.
A few stings is nothing to worry about if the victim is not allergic. Venom is injected during a sting that causes pain and swelling. The majority of stings fall into this first class, and symptoms disappear on their own within a day or two. It is possible for the stinger become stuck in the skin. If this happens, do not try to squeeze the barb to remove it. This will inject more venom into the skin. It is best to use a fingernail or metal object to scrape the stinger away. If there is excessive itching or pain then it is a good idea to take a pain reliever, as well as apply a topical cream containing hydrocortisone, lidocaine, or pramoxine.
A small percentage of people experience severe allergic reactions to yellow jacket stings. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling of the mouth and throat, increased heart rate, and dizziness. Immediately remove tight clothing, including rings, and lay the person on their side to prevent choking. Check to see if they have a prescribed epinephrine pen. Epinephrine, when injected, prevents a severe allergic response. Medical help should be sought immediately.