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Fire Ants - Stings

Imported fire ants first came to the United States around 1930. Now there are five times more ants per acre in the United States than in their native South America. The fire ants that came to the United States escaped their natural enemies and thrived in the southern landscape.


Fire ants bite and sting. They are aggressive when stinging and inject venom, which causes a burning sensation. Red bumps form at the sting, and within a day or two they become white fluid-filled pustules.

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Fire ant stings are painful, characterized by a local burning sensation, followed by urticaria. The sting site typically swells into a bump within hours, which can cause further pain and irritation, especially following several stings at the same place. The bump may develop into a white pustule within 24–36 hours which can become infected if scratched, but will spontaneously flatten within a few days if left alone. The pustules are uncomfortable  and, if they become infected, may cause scarring. Some people may become allergic to the venom, and if untreated, may become increasingly sensitive to the point of experiencing anaphylaxis following fire ant stings, which requires emergency treatment. It has been demonstrated that, while the pustule formation results from the injected venom; allergy to fire ant stings is caused solely by venom allergenic proteins.

First aid for fire ant stings includes external treatments and oral medicines. There are also many home remedies of varying efficacy, including immediate application of a solution of half bleach and half water, or aloe vera gel – the latter of which is also often included in over-the-counter creams that also include medically tested and verified treatments. External, topical treatments include the benzocaine, diphenhydramine, and  hydrocortisone (corticosteroid). Antihistamines and/or topical corticosteroids may help reduce the itching and will generally benefit local sting reactions. Severe allergic reactions to fire ant stings, including severe chest pain, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling, and slurred speech, can be fatal if not treated.


Frequently Asked Questions

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