Pest Identification

Learn More About the Pests Invading Your Home

How to Treat Fire Ant Bites

If you have ever combated fire ants you don’t need anyone to explain the origins of the name. When the reddish brown ants sting they inject an alkaloid venom called Solenopsin which produces a red-hot burning sensation. Most people know well enough to leave the fire ants alone but most of the time the attacks are provoked by accident.

Fire ants are easily agitated and extremely sensitive to movement and vibration. If you inadvertently step on a fire ant mound or drive over one with a lawnmower or tractor, the ants swarm out of their nest and blindly attack. Fire ants first grasp the skin with their mandibles to anchor themselves in place—which hurts. Then they insert the stinger and release the venom—which hurts even more. Unlike honey bees, which can only sting once before dying, a single fire ant can sting again and again.

When a fire ant stings, there is a burning, localized pain. Within 24 hours the wound turns into a raised white pustule which can last about a week. The pustule can cause pain and severe itching, but try not to scratch it. If the wound breaks open there is danger it will become infected. There is a greater risk of secondary problems among people with compromised immune systems or medical conditions such as diabetes.

If you are bitten by fire ants, elevate the affected area if possible until you can get to a sink. Wash the bites with soapy water to clean the area and prevent infection. Place an ice bag on the affected area to prevent itching and swelling. Apply an over-the-counter antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream to ease pain and itching. Blisters will form within a few hours. Do not pop them and avoid scratching or you risk infection. If the blister breaks, wash it with a mild soap. If the area becomes discolored or oozes puss, it is likely infected. Seek medical attention.

A small number of people are allergic to fire ant venom, especially those who are also allergic to bee stings. In severe cases these people can experience a whole-body, life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. If the victim experiences abnormal pain, swelling in the mouth or throat, difficulty breathing, hives, nausea, vomiting, or slurred speech after a fire ant sting, they should be rushed to the emergency room.