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The Real Symptoms of a Brown Wasp Sting

Personal reaction to a brown wasp sting

I knew I had a genuine fear of those brown wasps that keep on wanting to build their nests in the roof of the front porch. Members of my family - my husband, my son and my daughter all were stung by these wasps this summer. My husband three times, and my son and daughter once each. We had been spraying their nests when we find them, and the wasps themselves where they congregate at the spaces, the entrances to their nests, between the plywood and the wood beams on the porch, and they have kept up their dogged determination to live there.

The longer they hang around, the more my fear of them grows. I've felt their stings. I know that each time, my reaction gets worse. So let me tell about the latest episode with these little monsters.

Today while my five-year-old daughter and her little friend, a five-year-old boy, were playing in the front yard and the front porch, I went out there to stop the dog from jumping on my little girl. Meanwhile the little boy was messing with my son's skateboard, and began going up and down the length of the porch. I stopped him and told him to watch for the brown wasps. I didn't see any just then, but noticed the shell of a cicada up near the ceiling, pulled it off to show the kids. Just then they noticed a brown wasp come buzzing down around us. I swatted at it to throw if away from the kids, but it got me - or should I say, stabbed me.

Yes, that is exactly how it felt, and how I remembered it from last year, or the year before. And the same way my family members described how it felt whenever they were stung.

Right away, I noticed the big red dot on my wrist. And the quarter-sized white ring around it. I told the kids to stay away from that area - I was going to get the wasp spray and get any wasps I saw.

I went into the house, to get the wasp spray and to get the caladryl lotion to help with the symptoms of the sting. Finally, I found the spray, but couldn't find the lotion (we'd been using it a lot - for ant bites and mosquito bites - anything that itched). So I put meat tenderizer on the sting and then went to spray the wasps. I found two and got them.

That's when I began to notice reactions to the wasp sting. My heart started beating very hard and fast. My finger tips and toes began to tingle. My head started to get fuzzy. I began to consciously breathe deeply. I went in by the front door, thinking "maybe it's the heat" (it was in the 90s - we're in West Texas). I sat down in the living room where my husband was trying to nap. I told him I had been stung and that everything was going gray. I began to breathe very deeply - could hear my heart pounding away. I felt like someone punched me in the belly, and told my husband everything I was feeling - to keep a grip on my mind, to keep breathing. I began to pray, "Lord, please keep me breathing." I felt like I was going to pass out, then like I was going to throw up, then that I needed to get to the bathroom - diarrhea! He brought me some liquid children's antihistimine which I drank. I began to get so hot and sweaty I couldn't figure out what to do.

I got up to walk to the bathroom, felt like passing out, sat down, got up, consciously breathing deeply to get air into my lungs, and thinking, Lord, please let me live, and wanting to be here for my family. Then the nausea hit me hard and I walked to the bathroom in a half-aware state of mind, telling my husband I needed to throw up, that I was going to have diarrhea. When I got in the bathroom, I felt like I was going. I yelled "Help me - I going to pass out!" while doing my best to stay alert.

Next thing I knew, while sort of being conscious of drifting in some strange awareness, my husband was asking from above me, "Are you all right?" I was confused to see myself on the floor of the bathroom - couldn't figure out how and when I got there. Then I felt a huge sense of relief that I was still here on earth.

I asked if I had been out for very long. My husband said, "No, I just heard you fall."

That's when the nausea hit again and the diarrhea at the same time.

My husband helped me out and I won't go into the yucky details. But I got rid of my wonderful chicken quesadilla lunch!

My head began hurting, my fingers were aching, and I was shaky.

My heart had settled down and I was able to walk. I changed my clothes into something cooler, helped my daughter and her friend get ready to go to church with my husband. He was looking on the web for symptoms of a wasp sting. He thought I had food poisoning from eating out. But the symptoms he read stated that breathing trouble, headache, stomach upset as symptoms, but they weren't dangerous (actually I forget the exact word but it wasn't "fatal").

My husband gave me some more children's antihistimine since I had thrown up the other. He then took the kids and went to church, leaving the phone beside me. He called about fifteen minutes ago and I have a slight headache and am beginning to feel hungry. The wasp sting on my wrist hurts and the area around it feels itchy. My wrist is somewhat swollen and tight.

But I'll be alright! Thank the Lord!

Oh, and now I have an epi-pen (adrenaline), in case the next sting causes an anaphylactic reaction.

I have since learned that it is a good idea to treat the sting site with lemon juice or vinegar and to take Benadryl or other antihistamine immediately.


Well, it's a couple of weeks later, and I am fine. My arm did swell up to my elbow, and was hot and red. But by the end of a week, all the symptoms were gone. I just get a little anxious around wasps or when I think of my reaction.

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Some more information about the brown wasp - it's in the vespid family, the paper wasps, which build nests that are circular and tiered, and attached to the underside of a building, porch ceiling by a short stalk. The nests we find are light gray and are sometimes hidden inside the porch ceiling where there is a space for the wasps to get in.

They feed their young chewed up insects of various kinds. Each subfamily of paper wasps has its favorite one! The brown wasp, in the polistinae subfamily, likes to drink water droplets from plants like the dew from grasses.

The stinger is also the ovipositer - the eggs are laid from here into the nest cells.

So, these wasps are "helpful" insects, but beware for those who are allergic to their stings.

Brown wasps

Front view of a brown wasp.

Front view of a brown wasp.

Brown wasp stinger

Stinger end of brown wasp

Stinger end of brown wasp

Brown wasp on its side

A brown wasp on its side

A brown wasp on its side


lisa on August 27, 2014:

I was stung by a baby black wasp. My finger doubled in size. Was extremely itchy.I got little blisters at the sting sight and up the back of my hand.I vomited and had the chills.I took benadryl and applied hydrocortizone lotion to the sting. This happened 5 days ago and I'm still itching and the sight has blisters yet.

zophina on November 29, 2012:

This is a great article. It has helped me out very much.

amy on August 04, 2012:

Everything mentioned below is considered a major reaction to any type of bee or wasp sting including the brown wasp. severe hives all over the body with itchflushing of the skinswelling of the face and lipscramping in the abdominal areapainful jointsnausea and possible vomitingincreased heart ratedifficulty swallowingproblems breathing properly or wheezing because of swelling of the throat and constriction of the air passage leading to the lungs (anaphylaxis)weakness, faintness, or unconsciousnessshock and drop in blood pressure, anxiety. Copied and pasted from webmd. Also the same as what was stated on Wikipedia and a few other reliable websites.

amy on August 04, 2012:

To whoever said those symptoms were quite the opposite of a wasp they are not. That is considered a level 3 allergic reaction. Yes you can have nausea voiting diahrea , anxiety, numbness, achiness, swelling, itchiness, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, you can pass out, have restricted airways. Look up brown wasp stings and symptoms on a medical website or do like I did...ask your doctor. Maybe get your facts straight before you spout of untrue information.

hannah on February 04, 2012:

my finger swelled up when i got stung

Arnold on September 23, 2011:

I really think we can thank Jesus that you made it. This is more proof of miracles!

Dianne V. on August 19, 2011:

I just got stung by a brown wasp last night (I'm sure that's what it was). I knew I was allergic to yellow jackets but this sting is so much more painful. Today my hand is twice its size and hurts and itches at the same time. The swelling has reached my elbow and I hope it doesn't go any further.

Kevin on August 02, 2011:

I just got stung three times by one that got in my shirt. I am feeling sick and have a headache but all in all seem to be ok. I went on a killing spree with a bottle of 409 and a flip flop!

puregrace (author) from Elm Valley, Tuscola, Texas on November 22, 2010:

I want you all to know I was stung by a hornet a couple of weeks ago, quickly took benadryl, sat down (with my Epi-pen nearby) and I was fine! So thankful that I don't react to all wasps, etc. as seriously.

Though4Food: I did sit down and was talking to my husband and breathing in as normal a way as I could after the brown wasp sting, but the symptoms persisted and became overwhelming.

Fred: The hospital is 30 minutes away from my home.

Though4Food on September 10, 2010:

I'd hate to downplay your experience, so my condolences if I offend you, but what you are describing is not at all the symptoms of a physical reaction to wasp stings (and in fact, in the case of your heartbeat, it's quite the opposite). They do however match perfectly the symptoms of hyperventilation resulting from a panic attack. Nausea, heavy breathing, elevated heart rate, tingling on the tips of your fingers. Your physical reactions could have been avoided entirely by sitting down and doing a sudoku puzzle. Not that I would suggest doing anything calm is at all easy after getting stung by a wasp.

puregrace (author) from Elm Valley, Tuscola, Texas on July 11, 2010:

Well, no one in my family ever responded so severely to stings, and though I'd had some swelling from bee and wasp stings in the past, even from a brown wasp, I never responded with such a reaction. Apparently, the heat that day was a factor, as well.

Fred: the doctor at the minor emergency clinic said that my reaction was good in that I passed out, but that next time I should take benadryl immediately.

'Dro: don't know about their ability to call for help! But they attack individually when their nests are threatened.

`Dro. on July 11, 2010:

I just managed to trap one of these brown wasps between the window & the window screen; I know ants & wasps are related, but are they able to call for help like ants?

Fred on July 10, 2010:

Why didn't you go to the hospital? This sounds like you have a severe allergic reaction to wasp stings. All of the symptoms you mention are not present for most people with a sting and are classic for someone who is allergic. Your symptoms most likely were life threatening for you. You are very lucky. My 6 year old daughter was stung by a brown wasp this summer. We treated it with meat tenderizer to neutralize some of the proteins in the venom, iced the area and gave her some benadryl. She hurt for 45 minutes and got a red dot and a quarter sized lighter welt in the area. Your racing heartbeat, vomiting, etc, are all indicators of severe allergic reaction.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 09, 2010:

In the 1960s, such a large wasp began to build a nest in a metal mailbox hanging on the house beside the front door. My mother reached in and the wasp stung her ring finger. The finger and hand swelled so quickly, that my father rushed home from work at her call and took her to the nearest fire station to have her wedding ring cut off. Then she visited the doctor. Her finger never reduced to its previous size, though, and she needed another section of metal placed into her ring.

M.s Fowler from United states on July 08, 2010:

Nice tips!

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