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Knowing When to Say Uncle When Treating Fire Ant Bites

Posted Oct 12 2011 12:39pm
Almost every fire ant attack story begins with, “I was minding my own business” and usually ends with “I never thought such a little bug could cause so much pain,” or some variation of the above. Fire ants are unfortunately something you have to learn to live with, and avoid, if you live in the Southern United States. Avoiding them can be easier said than done because they usually attack without any harassment.

When fire ants attack they inject a venom into the skin using their stinger, as if biting us wasn’t enough of a warning to stay away. This venom is theorized to induce more ants to bite so the most important thing you can do is to move to a safe area, quickly. You’ll need to brush the ants off because once they latch on they don’t usually let go easily.

The venom increases the pain of the bite making it feel like your foot or leg is on fire, hence the name fire ants. Bites usually form small red bumps, but can form small pustules that can become infected.

What to do if you are bitten/stung

• This usually goes without saying, but step off of the ant hill and move to a safe place.
• Cleanse the bite area with soapy water for several minutes and then pat dry.
• Apply antiseptic to area like hydrogen peroxide or betadine(iodine) solution.
• Apply icepack to reduce pain and inflammation.
• To reduce itching apply hydrocortisone or another over the counter steroid cream to areas of bites. Calamine lotion can be used as well, or baking soda mixed 3:1 with water. Apply twice daily.
• DO NOT POP PUSTULES!!! Popping pustules can force fluid into deeper tissues inducing infection.
• If pustules form you can apply antibiotic ointment like Neosporin to lesions.
• If redness spreads or pustules become very large, SEE A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY!!!
o Infection has probably set in and antibiotics or stronger topical medications may be required.

Allergic Reactions

o Mild reaction - If you experience swelling and redness to site this may indicate an allergic reaction to bites, and over the counter Benadryl can help to reduce this reaction

o Severe Reaction – This is a medical emergency. You should call 911 or go immediately to the Emergency Room. Symptoms include Difficulty Breathing
 Swelling of lips, throat or tongue
 Dizziness
 Faintness
 Confusion
 Rapid Heart rate
 Hives all over body
 Nausea, Vomiting and Cramping

Most cases of fire ant bites resolve on their own with time, usually after a few weeks spots are gone. Diabetics should see a doctor ASAP to help prevent infection if bitten. Recognize your limitations, and if conservative therapy is not working contact us for an appointment.
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