Fire ants attack anything that disturbs their mound (nest). They firmly grasp skin with their jaws, and then sting and inject venom.
Fire ants pivot at the head and inflict more stings in a circular pattern.
The sting of a fire ant develops into a pustule (small, firm blister-like sore) in 24-48 hours. These pustules can become sites of secondary infection. Fire ant venom may cause a severe reaction in hypersensitive individuals, including nausea, shock, chest pains, and in rare cases, coma.
- Be aware – don’t stand on ant nests or areas where they are foraging.
- Wear boots and/or tuck pant legs into your socks to reduce the risk of bite/sting.
- Use insect repellants, such as DEET or Picaridin, on clothing and footwear.
- If attacked, leave area immediately while brushing off ants with the use of a gloved hand or by using a cloth.
- Consult your pharmacist for treatment of minor bites and irritation.
- Seek immediate medical attention, particularly if you feel short of breath or have
Reactions to fire ant stings are very common. There are multiple types of reactions that can occur:
Usual Reactions These reactions occur in essentially 100% of people stung by IFAs and include localized pain, swelling and redness at the site of the sting. Within 24 hours, a pus-filled blister will develop at the site of the sting. This blister is not infected; it is caused by a component of the fire ant venom.
Large Local Reactions These reactions are probably allergic in nature and occur in up to 50% of people who are stung by an IFA. Symptoms include a large area of swelling, redness, pain and itching at the site of the sting and occur within 12 to 24 hours of being stung.
Anaphylaxis A whole-body allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, can occur in about 1% of people who are stung by IFAs. This reaction can be severe and even life threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis from IFA stings may include any of the following:
- itching all over
- hives or swelling that spreads from the site of the sting
- runny nose, sneezing or post-nasal drip
- itchy/watery eyes
- swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
- shortness of breath, wheezing or coughing
- stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- lightheadedness, fast heart rate, low blood pressure or passing out
- sense of panic
- metallic taste in the mouth
Toxic These types of reactions can mimic anaphylaxis, but are due to a very large number of stings — typically in the hundreds. However, there is no allergic antibody present; symptoms are caused by the large amount of venom that is injected.