Fire Ant Bites: Hazard and Treatment

Have you ever experienced a fire ant bite? If yes, then you must be aware of how irritating and painful it can be. As a matter of fact, the rate of fire ant bites incidents is increasing, especially in southern regions. You should, therefore, know some facts about ants:

  • According to the Schmidt pain sting index, their sting is equal to being exposed to an open flame.
  • Apart from powerful jaws, these creatures have got a poisonous sting. When attacking, they rip your flesh apart and inject poison there. Unlike bees, ants can sting multiple times and survive afterwards. They sting every 10-15 seconds! Also, the entomologists from the University of Texas at Austin claim that at the moment of biting fire ants release the special alarm pheromone (chemical signal) that excites additional fire ants to attack.
  • Fire ants are practically invisible. Attention is the simplest way of protecting yourself against fire ants bites. They are tiny and are hard to notice. When walking out in the wild, or settling for a picnic, look around. You can be seriously harmed if you don’t notice the ants in time.

Why Fire Ant Bites are Dangerous

Anyone who has ever been bitten by red ants knows the answer to this question. That person will say that the bite hurts very much. But the pain is not the only danger borne by these ants for humans and pets.

  • “2 in 1” type of sting.

Fire ant poison is a real chemical compound. It contains the chemicals which destroy skin cells (hence the white fluid-filled pseudo-pustule, redness, and itching). According to the scientists from the University of Florida, “Approximately 95% of the venom is composed of these alkaloids, which are responsible for both the pain and white pustule that appears approximately one day after the sting occurs. The remainder of the venom contains an aqueous solution of proteins, peptides, and other small molecules that produce the allergic reaction in hypersensitive individuals”. Humans may experience not only the stinging sensation, but they can get huge red swells and even white ulcers. Later they turn into scars which don’t heal for several weeks.

fire ants bites-how to treat them?

  • Allergy and other toxic reactions

Fire ant poison is especially dangerous for those with allergies (it’s about 1% of the population). It contains a strong mix of allergens and is not inferior in this respect to the bees’ and wasps’ poison. In the "best case scenario" a patient will suffer from dizziness, nausea, excessive sweating, and itching.The worsening of preexisting cardiopulmonary disease, serum sickness, seizures, mononeuritis, nephrotic syndrome also may be associated with fire ant bites. The worst scenario is angioedema, a condition that is often lethal. An instant anaphylactic shock also occurs frequently. In general, you won’t do without the help of special medicine and experienced doctors.

  • They hurt pets

These ants can easily consume a newborn calf. And often they get on pets and bite them vigorously. Since dogs, cows and horses cannot shake them off their body, a few dozen ants can get on them. This is can lead to a serious burn and shock for any creature. Scientists believe that ant bites even affect the structure of the internal organs and body shape of small animals. The Public Library of Medicine website illustrates this phenomenon with the example of small lizards.

  • They spoil food

Fire ants can get into the kitchen or to the vegetable garden bed. Like many other insects, these creatures spread infection and disease. Everything is simple: first, they will eat some trash, then feed on the corpse of a rat, and finally will get on your dining table. Long story short: never finish the products which ants have bitten, you can get poisoned and sick.

Preliminary Measures

  1. Fire Ant Bite Allergy Check. The first thing you need to do is to check whether or not you are allergic to fire ant bite. If you are, you would experiencetightness in chest, nausea or diarrhea as a result of fire ant bites allergic reaction. The experts from the University of North Carolina Wilmington Abrons Student Health Center recommend to seek attention if you develop: “whole-body rash and itching, difficulty breathing (wheezing, noise on breathing in), or become shocky (pale, sweaty, faint, lightheaded, confused, etc.)”. Under such circumstances, you shouldn’t treat these bites on your own and should immediately contact a medical practitioner for detailed examination and treatment. However, if you aren’t allergic to these bites, then you may treat the problem on your own since the situation won’t be that critical.
  2. Get Away From Infested Sites & Remove the Ants. In most cases, fire ants will bite you when you accidentally touch their mound either by standing or by sitting on it. The first thing you need to do is to get away from the site and remove the ants from your skin. If possible, take off your shirt to clear your body of all the fire ants that might have crawled up through your sleeves.

fire ants bites

How to Treat Fire Ant Bites

Suppose they have bitten you. What should your reaction be?  

NB: Don’t hit fire ants; it will only make them angry. Take them carefully with your fingers and shake them off on the ground. They bite every 5-10 seconds, so hurry up!  

Never Pop the Blister! Just within a few hours, a blister will appear on the affected part of the skin with a dreggy fluid inside it. Never pop it with your nails. And if it somehow pops by itself, immediately remove the fluid from your skin.

So, you need to perform some important steps:

1. Wash the Affected Part of the Skin

Wash the affected part of the skin with soap and water or with alcohol-containing remedy. Itnot only helps remove all kind of dirt particles from the skin which could have caused further infection but also soothes fire ant bites by neutralizing the acidic sting. This helps controlling swelling as well.

wash the fire ant bite

2. Control the Swelling and the Itching

The first thing you would do is control fire ant bites swelling by raising the attacked body part above your chest level. For example, if it bites you on your hand or wrist, try raising it so that the blood flow to this part of the body is minimized and the swelling process is slowed down.

Don’t scratch bites! If microbes get into wounds, this can result in secondary infection.Itching can be immediately controlled by putting an ice bar over the infected area. This helps to control that intense itching and pain. If itching is awful, use such products as StingEze Dauber for a ~$4.69 – this low-cost remedy is recommended by scientists because it helps to eliminate pain & itching and reduces infection. Or you may apply Benadryl Itch Relief Spray for a ~$12.95: it’s a multipurpose remedy with a 4.5 stars rating on Amazon.com.

OR You may also try traditional methods. A mixture of baking soda and water may also work. Some bloggers recommend rinsing the bite area with a substance containing ammonium. We haven’t found any confirmation of this from the doctors.

baking soda against fire ant bites

3. Take Antihistamine Drugs if you Need

Antihistamine pills help to fight allergic reactions and are an excellent fire ant bites remedy. Take these drugs (as recommended by the doctor) before it swells too much. This will help control the itching, pain, and swelling at early stages.

You may spray insect repellent containing DEET onto your shoes and lower pants leg. This may help deter foraging fire ants from climbing onto the legs, it’s a good advice from scientists.

Read our review of the best outdoor and indoor fire ant killers“7 Best Fire Ants Killers: a Review of Traps, Gels and Insecticides”.