What Is Yellow Jacket Sting?

  • Tehreem Iman Bachelor of Science - BS, Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science/Research and Allied Professions, University of Sharjah
  • Sichen Yin Msc, in Clinical Neuropsychiatry, King’s College London
  • Ellen Rogers MSc in Advanced Biological Sciences, University of Exeter

Yellow jackets are a species of wasp that are distinguished by their unique yellow and black patterns. Yellow jacket stings can be painful and, in rare instances, may result in allergic responses. It is crucial to comprehend the nature of yellow jacket stings, symptoms, treatments, and preventative actions to handle encounters with these insects properly.

Why do yellow jackets sting?

These insects employ their stings as a form of defence to save their nests and themselves. A yellow jacket may sting when it senses a threat, injecting venom through its stinger.

A yellow jacket's venom contains a variety of substances, including proteins and chemicals, which help create the sting's pain, swelling, and other symptoms. Histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine are a few of the main substances found in yellow jacket venom.

Yellow jackets are, by nature, fiercely protective of their colony, and they will usually sting when it is disturbed. As such, they will probably sting if a person is close to their nest, even just a few feet away. Yellow jackets are, therefore, thought to be particularly aggressive. Yellow jackets frequently appear at picnics and will attempt to eat the fruits and meals that are served there. When attempting to feed, they will sting if they feel threatened.

In the spring, yellow jackets start to construct their nests in which they live in sizable colonies. Their nests can be constructed in a variety of places, such as trees, building eaves, hollow wall cavities and playground equipment for kids. Yellow jackets typically only become nuisances in the late summer and early autumn, when their usual food supplies run low. In order to find food, they often don't travel more than one mile from their nest.

Only female yellow jackets sting and male drones are not venomous.

Children are more likely to get stung by yellow jackets because they are frequently playing outside.

Yellow jacket sting symptoms

Depending on the individual's sensitivity to insect venom, the location of the sting, and the number of strikes, the symptoms of a yellow jacket sting might differ from person to person. A bee sting typically results in a piercing pain and a laceration or puncture wound in the skin. A local reaction is brought on by the venom of a bee or wasp sting at the site. Yellow jacket stings frequently cause the following symptoms:

  1. Pain and swelling: people frequently experience localised pain, redness, and swelling at the sting location right away after being stung. Depending on how each person reacts, the level of pain and swelling may vary.
  2. Rash and itching: itching is a typical reaction to a yellow jacket sting. This itching may be accompanied by a rash in the vicinity of the sting.
  3. Hives and allergic reactions: a yellow jacket sting occasionally results in a more serious allergic reaction, resulting in hives (urticaria), breathing problems, nausea, vomiting, or even anaphylaxis.
  4. Systemic symptoms: people may have symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting, fever, and a general sensation of malaise if the venom travels throughout the body.

Reactions to allergens and anaphylaxis

Some people may have serious allergic reactions to yellow jacket stings, ranging from hives and itching to anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction. Emergency medical care and the use of epinephrine (adrenaline) are necessary for the prompt treatment of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis symptoms can include:

  1. Respiratory issues or lack of breath
  2. Chest pain
  3. Diarrhoea, vomiting, or nausea
  4. Strong or erratic pulse
  5. Loss of consciousness or confusion1

Treatment of yellow jacket stings

The symptoms of a yellow jacket sting can be reduced with fast and adequate treatment. Follow these instructions if you were stung by a yellow jacket:

  1. Clean the area: to reduce the risk of infection, wash the stung location with soap and water.
  2. Discomfort relief: to lessen discomfort and swelling, use an ice pack or a towel with ice on the sting location.
  3. Antihistamines: use over-the-counter antihistamines or painkillers (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) to treat itching, pain, and discomfort.
  4. Avoid scratching: to avoid infection and additional irritation, try not to scratch the sting site. Infections can also be brought on by repeated scratching or inadequate initial care for the sting site.2
  5. Elevate the Sting region: To lessen swelling, try to keep the irritated region elevated.3

How to avoid yellow jacket stings

You should try to avoid yellow jacket stings, especially if you know you are allergic to insect venom. Here are some precautions to take:

  1. Avoidance: Exercise caution in areas where yellow jackets have been known to nest, such as near trash cans, outdoor dining areas, and picnic sites. Pay attention to them, especially in the warmer months.
  2. Keep food and beverages covered: keep food and drinks covered while engaging in outside activities, and promptly discard rubbish in sealed containers.
  3. Seal entry points: yellow jackets may construct nests inside walls or attics, so seal any cracks and openings in buildings.
  4. Wear protective clothes: when spending time outside, especially in places with dense vegetation, wear suitable clothes, such as long sleeves, slacks, and closed-toe shoes.
  5. Be careful with sweet scents: Do not use perfumes, lotions, and other scented products.4


Yellow jackets are fiercely protective of their colonies, and they will usually sting if their nest is threatened or disrupted. They are very violent when trying to defend their area or feed themselves. Yellow jackets are more commonly encountered during picnics, especially in the late summer and early autumn when their typical food sources are less abundant.

Yellow jacket stings can result in localised pain, redness, swelling, itching, and rashes. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be potentially fatal in some situations. Other allergic reactions include hives and breathing problems. The symptoms can be reduced with prompt treatment, which includes cleaning the sting site, using cold packs, and using over-the-counter drugs.

Yellow jacket stings can be avoided by exercising caution in locations where they are known to nest, covering food and drinks when engaging in outdoor activities, sealing building entryways, donning protective gear and staying away from fragrant items that may attract yellow jackets.

In conclusion, yellow jacket stings may cause mild to severe discomfort and, in rare instances, life-threatening allergic reactions. To reduce the risk of stings and successfully manage their aftereffects, it is crucial to comprehend their behaviour, be aware of the symptoms, and take preventative actions.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Anaphylaxis-anaphylaxis - symptoms & causes. [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 16]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anaphylaxis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351468
  2. MedicineNet. What is the best treatment for yellow jacket stings? [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 16]. Available from: https://www.medicinenet.com/best_treatment_for_yellow_jacket_stings/article.htm
  3. Hopkins Medicine. Insect stings [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Sep 16]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/insect-stings
  4. Nationwide Children’s. How to outsmart a yellow jacket [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 16]. Available from: https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2013/09/how-to-outsmart-a-yellow-jacket 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Tehreem Iman

Bachelor of Science - BS, Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science/Research and Allied Professions, University of Sharjah

I am a dedicated undergraduate student pursuing a Medical Laboratory Sciences degree at the prestigious University of Sharjah. I have been a member of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry Newsletter, where I honed my medical writing skills and gained significant experience in conducting interviews. I have promoted cancer awareness as an Overseas Ambassador for the esteemed Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. In addition, a rewarding internship at the World Wide Fund For Nature and committed community work have helped me to advance my practical expertise.

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