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How to Treat Fire Ant Bites -- Treatment Tips and Home Remedies

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Fire Ant Bite Treatments and Home Remedies

Did you get stung or bitten by fire ants? Fire ant bites are itchy and painful due to the fact that they're a bite and a sting in one. The ant removes a chunk of skin with his mandibles, and the ant stings with a venom.

Fire ants are found throughout the southern United States and South America. In fact, they're a non-native species to the U.S. It's believed that they were brought to the United States aboard cargo ships traveling from South America to Mobile, Alabama, in the 1930s.

There are more than 220 species of fire ants. They're also called tropical fire ants, red ants and ginger ants. In the U.S., they're often referred to as Red Imported Fire Ants or "RIFA."

This article will explore home remedies for fire ant bites, treatments to prevent infection and how to treat the itching from fire ant bites. We'll also discuss fire ant pustules, and we'll explore signs of an allergic reaction to fire ant bites and stings, along with tips to avoid getting stung.

Supplies for Fire Ant Bite Treatment

You'll need the following items to treat fire ant bites and stings.

  • After-Bite Remedy -- Ammonia, After-Bite Stick or Ice Pack (to reduce the itching and burning).
  • Soap and Disinfectant -- Anti-bacterial Soap and Hydrogen Peroxide or Betadine (to clean the ant bites.)
  • Benadryl -- Benadryl or Another Anti-histimine Medication (to control the itching in the long term.)
  • Ointments or Creams -- Hydrocortisone Cream or Spray (to control itching) and Antibiotic Ointment or Neosporin (to prevent infection.)
  • Bandage or Band-Aid -- Band-Aids (for just a few bites) or Rolled Gauze or Large Bandages (to cover large areas.)

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How to Treat Fire Ant Bite Itching -- Home Remedies

In the moments after you suffer from fire ant bites, you'll experience an acute burning and itching sensation. The discomfort can be quite intense, but fortunately, it's actually really simple to treat the symptoms.

But before you attempt to treat fire ant bites, you'll need to remove them! It's best to brush off the ants using swift, short strokes. Never, ever try to rinse off the ants with water! This triggers the ants' natural instinct to hold on for dear life, so to speak, and they achieve that with their mandibles! Stated simply, if you try to wash off the ants, they'll bite down in an attempt to avoid getting rinsed away, so you'll get more bites than you would otherwise. So always brush them off; never try to wash them off!

Ammonia as a Fire Ant Sting Treatment

Ammonia is perhaps the best home remedy for fire ant bites. The ammonia neutralizes the venom, thereby serving as an effective fire ant bite treatment.

Apply ammonia to the fire ant bites as soon as possible. Pour it over a large area or dampen a paper towel or cotton ball and apply it to the bite. The ammonia will eliminate the fire ant bite itch and sting within moments.

Another Home Remedy for Fire Ant Bite Itching

Don't have ammonia on-hand? Try an ice pack or another cold compress. The ice pack will greatly reduce the itching and burning sensation.

You may also consider buying an anti-itch insect bite stick or spray. They're frequently sold under names like "After-Bite."

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Medications and Fire Ant Bite Treatments for the Itch

After you administer first aid with ammonia for a cold pack, you'll need to take medication to treat the fire ant bite, as the venom can cause swelling and prolonged itching.

Try the following fire ant bite treatments for the itching and swelling:

-- Take doses of an anti-histimine like Benadryl for 24 hours following the bite(s);

-- Apply an anti-histimine cream or ointment, like Hydrocortisone; and

-- Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.

These measures will treat the itchiness associated with the insect bites, but you'll also need to take measures to prevent infection. Read on for all the details!

(Maria Kaloudi Photo)

Did You Know...

Fire ants communicate with each other using chemical signals that travel through the air. These chemical signals are one reason why they're so aggressive. When one ant detects a threat, he'll send chemical signals to fellow fire ants. That's why they attack en masse.

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Fire Ant Bite Pustules and Preventing Infection

Fire ant bites are prone to infection. Once you've administered first aid by eliminating the severe itching and burning with ammonia, an ice pack or a bug bite medication, you must clean the bite(s). Wash with an anti-bacterial soap for a total of two minutes.

Clean the bites with hydrogen peroxide or Betadine. Then, apply a layer of hydrocortisone or another anti-itch cream, followed by a layer of antibiotic ointment. Cover with a bandage.

After approximately 12 to 24 hours, a pustule will form at the site of the sting. Many find it tempting to pop fire ant bite pustules, but this must be avoided. If you squeeze the pustule, it will push the infection deeper into the skin.

The pustule will break open and drain after a day or two. Healing will take about a week. Fire ant bites scar on many skin types, leaving a dark mark where the sting was located. These tend to fade and disappear over the course of a few months.

Popping Fire Ant Bite Pustules

It's very tempting to squeeze the pustules formed at the site of red ant bites. They look like whiteheads (pimples).

If you squeeze an ant bite pustule, you'll push the infection deeper into the skin. This increases the chances that you'll need oral antibiotics to treat the infection.

If You Absolutely Must Pop the Fire Ant Bite Pustules...

...Use the following method. But only if you can't resist the urge to pop the pustules. For fast healing, leave them alone!

  • Apply a warm, wet compress for 20 minutes. Wrap a damp washcloth around a microwavable heat pack or soak the region in really warm water.
  • Disinfect a needle by soaking it in rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Betadine for two minutes.
  • Wash your hands and the fire ant bite with anti-bacterial soap. Wash for two full minutes!
  • Disinfect the fire ant bite and surrounding area by swabbing it with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Betadine.
  • Lance the ant bite pustule with the disinfected needle.
  • Allow the pustule to drain. Do not squeeze it!
  • Wash and disinfect the fire ant bite. Wash it for an additional two minutes using anti-bacterial soap. Follow up by swabbing the site of the ant bite with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Betadine. Allow it to air dry.
  • Apply bydrocortisone cream and antibiotic ointment. Apply a coat of hydrocortisone cream to control the itching and follow by a dab of antibiotic ointment or Neosporin to prevent infection.
  • Apply a bandage or band-aid. This will keep the antibiotic-ointment on the ant bite.

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Symptoms and Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Fire Ant Bites

Some people are allergic to fire ant bites and stings. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms are indicative of anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction:

-- Difficulty Breathing;

-- Tongue or Facial Swelling;

-- Nausea or Vomiting;

-- Rapid Heart Rate;

-- Weak or Rapid Pulse;

-- Sweating and/or a Sudden Warm Feeling;

-- Seizures or Muscle Tremors;

-- Fainting or Loss of Consciousness;

-- Pale Skin;

-- Drooling or Salivation; and

-- Rapid Swelling at the Fire Ant Bite Site.

These are among the symptoms of a fire ant bite allergy. If you have an EpiPen, administer an immediate injection. Otherwise, call 911.

Pets and Fire Ant Allergies

Notably, pets can also suffer from fire ant sting allergies, and like humans, anaphylactic shock can be deadly. Therefore, if you see any of the above symptoms in your dog, cat or other animal, rush the pet to the emergency veterinary clinic.

If your cat or dog has a known fire ant allergy, ask your veterinarian about an EpiPen prescription. The injection can be administered to counteract the allergic reaction.

If You Get Attacked by Fire Ants...

Immediately move away from the nest and brush off the ants. Never, ever try to wash away or rinse off fire ants! The ants will bite down in an attempt to prevent getting washed away; it's their instinctive reaction. Therefore, if you try to hose off fire ants, you'll get lots of additional bites! Brush them away instead.

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Signs of an Infection and Diabetic Fire Ant Bite Victims

Most fire ant bites will heal within approximately one week. But in some cases, an infection can take hold. An established infection will require a trip to the doctor's office for an oral antibiotics prescription.

Infection symptoms include:

-- Redness;

-- Swelling (beyond approximately 72 hours);

-- Discharge and pus;

-- Foul odor; and

-- Gradual enlargement of the wound or a wound that won't heal.

Over time, the fire ant bite site should be improving. If it's starting to look worse with time, that's a sign of an infection. It can be difficult to notice small changes when you see the wound on a daily basis, so try taking photographs (be sure to use the same lighting conditions for each photo!) Upload the photos onto your computer and compare. This makes it easy to determine whether the ant bites are improving or getting worse!

Notably, fire ant bite scabs tend to remain for a long time -- up to two weeks, in my experience. This is normal.

Diabetics and Fire Ant Bites

Diabetics frequently experience problems with wound healing, particularly on the extremities like the legs and feet. Unfortunately, the legs and feet are common locations for red ant bites and stings.

If you are a diabetic with known wound healing problems, consult your physician if you suffer fire ant bites. Due to the propensity for infection and pustules, red ant bites are especially dangerous for diabetics, so your doctor may opt to prescribe oral antibiotics.

How'd You Get a Fire Ant Bite?

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What were you doing when you were attacked by fire ants?

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Questions? Comments? 10 comments

cdevries profile image

cdevries 5 years ago

A really useful lens - especially for those of us who live in the south. Thanks1


imolaK profile image

imolaK 5 years ago

Your lens is very helpful and interesting. Blessed.


EpicFarms profile image

EpicFarms 5 years ago

Fire ants are horrible! We have them everywhere in our area, and they are VERY difficult to keep under control. We treat the yard and pasture with something called "Extinguish" (safe to use around the horses). The ants are miserable for the animals too; it's a never ending battle. I'm going to try the ammonia next time. Handy lens!


spartakct profile image

spartakct 5 years ago

nice informative lens!


WriterJanis2 profile image

WriterJanis2 5 years ago

I learned a lot about fire ants in this lens. Never knew about how they communicated. Interesting!


nathanpoole 4 years ago

I hate fire ants because they always bite me.


anonymous 3 years ago

Is it possible that fire ants occur on beds and they come on the 13th floor.


anonymous 3 years ago

20 nasty fire ant bites while gardening on my feet! OUCH


golfnrn 3 years ago

You can wipe out a colony of the ants by a heavy sprinkling of cornmeal over their mounds....they greedily go after it and will literally implode.....I'm live in Orlando and have them In our yards but I get rid of them with this inexpensive method! Pat Carter


miacarter profile image

miacarter 2 years ago from SW Florida Author

@anonymous: Sure! Fire ants can climb, just like other ants. So they could certainly find their way into your 13th floor unit and into your bed!

Best,

Mia Carter

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