Emergency advice

Nettle stings:

  1. Wash the area with soap and water.
  2. Avoid scratching the area.
  3. Seek medical assistance if discomfort persists.

What are nettle stings?

Nettle stings can be itchy and you may feel a stinging or burning sensation. This will usually settle down within a few minutes or a few days and you can often treat them yourself. They may cause a raised area nettle rash on the skin.  

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • a stinging sensation
  • white or red spots
  • red, raised patches.

What to do

  1. Wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible.

  2. Avoid scratching or rubbing the itchy area.

  3. The discomfort should improve within a couple of hours. Seek medical assistance if it continues.

    • If the casualty is known to be allergic to nettle stings, they may have their own medication, such as an auto-injector.
    • If the irritation is severe, cooling the skin with a damp cloth or ice pac (a pack of frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel) may be useful.
    • A pharmacist will be able to advise regarding the use of antihistamines and creams to relieve the irritation.
    • In very rare cases an individual may have a severe allergic reaction to a nettle sting.  If so, please follow the severe allergic reaction advice linked in top bullet point in this section and seek urgent medical help.

Related first aid advice

Cuts and grazes

Cuts and grazes are common injuries that can usually be treated at home. Learn what to do.

Insect stings

Insect stings can be painful but are not usually dangerous. However, stings to the mouth or throat can be more serious. Find out what to do.


Splinters from wood, glass, or metal can enter the skin and can carry a risk of infection. Learn what to do.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support