If you’ve suffered from a fire ant bite, you may be concerned for your own safety and not know what you should do, if anything to treat it.
We’ll discuss what your best treatment options are as well as what you should expect.
Black and Red fire ants are native to South America and actually entered the US in the 1930’s. Since then, they’ve spread primarily across the south and western United States. A fire ant bite or “sting” is usually accompanied by an uncomfortable burning sensation, hence the name “fire ant.”
Why do fire ants bite?
Fire ants will usually bite when they have been stirred by movement or vibration. No doubt your reaction if you see a fire ant, or any bug for that matter, crawling up your leg or arm is to jerk violently and try to kill it. While this reaction is probably more of a reflex, this is typically what causes fire ants to sting. Often you don’t get just one fire ant bite, so if other ants are present they will usually react the same way and bite you too. Unlike bees, fire ants can sting many times each so even if one ant is present you can still end up being stung multiple times.
A fire ant mound can vary greatly in size, so it isn’t uncommon for a person to step on one and the disturbance is what instigates the ants to crawl out and start stinging whatever they feel “attacked” them, even if that person had no knowledge of what they just did. The bites will start within seconds, and you should use your hands or any other objects you have handy to start knocking them off of you. Simply spraying off with water doesn’t usually get rid of fire ants completely.
How dangerous is a fire ant bite?
Despite the fact that it is painful and gross to look at, a fire ant bite isn’t dangerous in the vast majority of cases. As mentioned earlier, if you have one bite you probably have quite a few in the same area. Even in this case, a healthy adult can have hundreds of fire ant bites and not have fatal consequences.
A fire ant bite is more dangerous if you are allergic to ant venom, and in this case you should really go to a hospital immediately if you notice typical allergic reactions like not being able to take a deep breath, having swelling of the tongue or throat, etc. You can expect that the area where you have the fire ant bite will be swollen, painful, and itchy. This is common an unavoidable. The elderly and very young should also be monitored closely for any adverse reactions as they may not have the immune system to handle a fire ant attack as a “normal” adult would.
How to treat a fire ant bite
The most common reaction to a fire ant sting is that you will develop red bumps or hives within a few hours. Soon after they will form a white pus on the top, which is a fluid that is typically around for several days. It is important that you resist the urge to scratch or scrape these as that will simply spread the infectious material. For most people the bites will be visible for a few weeks and simply go away on their own. If you see excessive swelling or discoloration, you should seek medical help to make sure it isn’t an allergic reaction with greater implications.
Since there is no “cure” for a fire ant bite, you are limited to treating it with topical skin products. One recommended product that you can purchase is called Mitigator. This is not exclusive to fire ant bites, but is formulated to stop itching and painful bites like those from fire ants. Another thing it does is help avoid scarring. From time to time fire ant bites will leave small brown scars – particularly if nothing is done to help fight against it.
Another homemade fire ant bite treatment is using meat tenderizer and/or baking soda combined with water. All you need to do simply form a quick paste by stirring these ingredients (one or both at the same time) with water and put it on your stings. Generally leaving there for about 15 – 20 minutes will go a long way toward minimizing the pain and eliminating any infection.
The key with both treatment options mentioned above is speed. The best response is going to be when you can apply a solution almost immediately after you are bitten. The longer you wait, the less effective a treatment will be. For that reason you should probably have the household items available or get Mitigator just in case – particularly if you are in a fire ant infested region.