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How to Treat Fire Ant Bites or Stings

By Contributor ; Updated July 27, 2017

Fire ants are a menace in Texas and the southeast United States. Unlike many other kinds of stinging insects, fire ants can sting you several times -- and often do. Even worse, the ants work in large groups, so if you disturb one fire ant, you've probably disturbed hundreds of his closest friends, all of whom will swarm and attack. You can often treat the stings at home. If, however, you have a history of allergy to the stings, or if you have any signs of a severe reaction, such as difficult breathing, seek emergency medical treatment right away.

Rub off the ants. They dig deeply into the flesh by biting before they sting, so shaking them off or using a hose won't work. They will continue to sting multiple times, so get them off quickly.

Wash the area gently with soap and water.

Apply cold packs to the area, which will soothe the burning as well as treat the swelling.

Apply an anti-itch cream or paste to the area several times a day to relieve symptoms until they subside. MayoClinic.com recommends trying one of these: calamine lotion; over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream; or a homemade baking soda paste made with three parts baking soda to one part water.

Take an oral over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl. This will decrease the allergic reaction in your skin as well as relieve itching.

Tips

Avoid scratching the blisters that form shortly after the fire ants sting you. The blisters can itch intensely but if you open them, your skin irritation can become worse. You also increase your chances of infection.

The best way to treat fire ant stings is to avoid them in the first place. Learn to identify their mounds and stay away.

Warnings

Fire ant stings result in a severe reaction more often than other insect stings, simply because the sheer number of stings often means you've been exposed to a lot of venom at once. If you experience any symptoms of anaphylaxis, including but not limited to difficult breathing, clammy skin, swelling, nausea, palpitations, dizziness or other shock-like symptoms, get emergency medical treatment immediately.

If these methods don't relieve your symptoms or if you notice any signs of infection, see a doctor.

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