Stinging nettles, technically termed Urtica dioica, are something that many of us feared as children when playing outside. They get their name from the fact that they are able to deliver a nasty sting, leaving behind a painful and itchy rash. This often catches us out thanks to the ability of nettles to blend seamlessly into the background among other fauna. Long trousers are a must!
Luckily, getting stung by a nettle is nothing to worry about. It's irritating at best and that irritation will normally go away on its own after a couple of hours (and subside much before that) without treatment.
That said though, you may still be wondering what precisely is going on when you get stung, and it can be useful to know how to treat the stings if you want to get rid of the discomfort more quickly and help put any stung children at ease too. This is especially good to know if you should have fallen onto a number of stinging nettles in which case it can be quite unpleasant.
What Is a Nettle Sting?
First of all then, let's take a look at what nettle stings actually are and at what causes them.
As with most stings, nettles sting by transmitting chemicals that irritate the skin. These chemicals include histamine which is what irritates the skin and brings up the rash, acetylcholine which is what causes the burning feeling and serotonin which can also trigger pain.
As mentioned, a sting from a nettle is no serious problem and will clear up on its own. As it doesn't get under the skin, it's unusual for there to be any serious effects. That said, there are a number of things you can do to ease the discomfort.
The first step here is to clean mud or dirt away from the area using cold water or a damp cloth. Don't rub too hard though as you'll exacerbate the sensation. In some cases you may notice that you have a few tiny hairs where you were stung by the nettles. If you spot these you can try washing them off, or using tape to remove them.
From here you'll then want to treat the pain which you can do using aloe vera. This works as aloe vera is an anti-inflammatory and should provide some cooling effect too providing immediate relief. Home remedies can also include vinegar, baking soda, soap or other alkaline substances to try and neutralise acids. You can also use analgesics such as Paracetamol. Now just avoid itching and wait for the pain to go away!