How to Treat Fire Ant Bites

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It’s important to be careful of these aggressive insects as their bites can be painful and dangerous.
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Fire ants are a type of insect that can cause painful bites and venomous stings if they feel threatened. These bites can be very uncomfortable, leaving bumps or small blisters that may even leave a scar. Fire ant venom is different from that of bees or wasps, and they can sting a victim multiple times in a circular pattern.

If you accidentally disturb a fire ant mound or walk too close to it, the ants may swarm and attack you. They are very aggressive and will sting multiple times, making them particularly dangerous. Fire ants can be found in many parts of the United States, and their populations are growing. However, most fire ant bites can be treated at home:

  • Don’t wash the ants off – Fire ants bite and cling to the skin, so it’s better to brush them off with a cloth or towel.
  • Clean the area – Wash the affected area with soap and warm water.
  • Relieve discomfort – Use over-the-counter medications or home remedies like a cold compress to reduce discomfort.
  • Avoid scratching – Scratching the area can break the protective blister or pustule and lead to infection. If the ants are removed before they sting, pustules won’t form.
  • Watch for allergies – Fire ant stings can cause extreme allergic reactions, particularly in children and the elderly. Seek medical help immediately if you experience chest pain, excessive sweating, nausea, extreme swelling, tongue swelling, slurred speech, or trouble breathing.

Fire Ants Are a Growing Problem

Fire ants are spreading rapidly across the United States, with about 14 million people bitten every year.

Additional Information

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Sources

  • Drees, Bastiaan M. “Medical Issues and Treatment Considerations for the Red Imported Fire Ant.” Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University. 12/2002. (7/17/12). http://fireant.tamu.edu/materials/factsheets_pubs/pdf/FAPFS023_2002rev_Medical.pdf
  • Medscape Reference. “Fire Ant Bites.” (7/17/12). http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1089027-overview
  • Texas A & M University. “Frequently Asked Questions on Fire Ants” (7/17/12). http://fireant.tamu.edu/about/faq.php

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Insects and Scorpions.” 2/24/12. (7/17/12). http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/insects/

FAQ

1. What are fire ant bites?

Fire ant bites occur when a person is stung by a fire ant. Fire ants are reddish-brown or black ants that are commonly found in the southern parts of the United States. When a fire ant bites, it injects venom into the skin, which can cause pain, swelling, and itching.

2. How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a fire ant?

You’ll know if you’ve been bitten by a fire ant because it will be painful and there will be a red bump on your skin. The bump will often have a white pustule in the center, and the area around the bite may be itchy and swollen. If you’ve been bitten by multiple fire ants, you may also experience nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

3. What should I do if I’ve been bitten by a fire ant?

If you’ve been bitten by a fire ant, the first thing you should do is wash the affected area with soap and water. You can also apply a cold compress to the area to reduce swelling and pain. Over-the-counter antihistamines and pain relievers can also help alleviate symptoms. If the bite is severe or you experience an allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

4. How long does it take for a fire ant bite to heal?

The duration of a fire ant bite will depend on the severity of the bite and the individual’s reaction to the venom. In most cases, the bite will heal within a few days to a week. However, if the area around the bite becomes infected or you experience an allergic reaction, it may take longer to heal.

5. How can I prevent fire ant bites?

To prevent fire ant bites, it’s important to avoid areas where fire ants are known to nest. If you must be in an area where fire ants are present, wear protective clothing and shoes. You can also treat the area with insecticide to kill the ants. If you do get bitten, be sure to seek medical attention if you experience severe symptoms or an allergic reaction.

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