Fire Ant Bites Pictures

I live on Merritt Island in Florida now and I’m allergic to bees, spiders and I guess Fire Ants too. I am trying out the White Vinegar and so far it is starting to feel better. Thank You for the help in trying to figure out what to do. I have 2 good size bites on my right foot up near my toes and the vinegar is helping to take the itchiness out. I am so grateful to you for posting this remedy.

Fire Ant Bites

Fire ant bites happen when a certain type of venomous ant stings. The stings cause a burning sensation, then itchy welts, often in a circular pattern. The welts turn into blisters. Most people can treat fire ant bites at home with antihistamines, over-the-counter steroid creams and cold compresses. But sometimes, the stings can cause systemic or life-threatening reactions.

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Overview

What are fire ant bites?

A fire ant bite occurs when a particular type of aggressive, venomous ant stings your skin.

The bites are painful, itchy and usually on your legs and feet. Rarely, the venom causes a life-threatening reaction.

What does a fire ant look like?

A fire ant red-tinged insect. Its size ranges from 1 millimeter (mm) (the tip of a pencil) to 5 mm (the size of a pencil eraser). It has six legs and two pinching mandibles that protrude from its head. It has a pouch of venom and a stinger on its rear end.

Where do fire ants live?

Fire ants are common in the United States, especially in the southeast.

Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta and S. richteri) were accidentally imported from South America to Alabama in the 1930s.

The ants live in large numbers in colonies or nests in the ground.

Symptoms and Causes

What happens when fire ants bite you?

Fire ant bites typically occur when someone accidentally steps on an area of the ground where the insects live. Stings often occur on the exposed skin of your feet, ankles and legs. Fire ants can also attack animals, including pets.

Contact with a fire ant nest will prompt numerous ants to swarm and attack and bite exposed skin.

When a fire ant bites, it attaches its mandibles to your skin. Then, it curves back and sticks its stinger into your skin, injecting venom. It can sting multiple times at once, moving in a circular direction, sometimes, delivering seven or eight stings at a time.

The ants may repeatedly sting you unless you kill them or remove them from your skin.

What does a fire ant bite look like?

The symptoms of a fire ant bite happen in stages:

  1. First, you’ll experience a burning or stinging sensation.
  2. Within about an hour, itchy bumps or welts will develop. The bumps are usually in a circular or semicircular pattern and typically last for several hours.
  3. After several hours, blisters will develop where the bumps were located. They’re usually very itchy.
  4. About a day or so later, the blisters fill with a yellow or white pus-like fluid. They go away within seven to 10 days.

Some people experience a more severe reaction:

  • Local reaction: A localized reaction involves symptoms in the same region of your body but beyond the bite location. For example, one sting on your calf may cause swelling in your entire lower leg. Local reactions usually last a couple of days.
  • Systemic reaction: Your entire body may react to a sting. Symptoms may include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, swollen tongue, or trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • Anaphylaxis: Rarely, fire ant bites can cause anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms include dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and/or cardiac arrest.

Diagnosis and Tests

How are fire ant bites diagnosed?

You or your healthcare provider can often diagnose fire ant bites based on:

  • Identification of the insect involved.
  • Your skin’s appearance in the first several hours.
  • Characteristic symptoms, such as itchiness or burning.

Management and Treatment

What should I do for fire ant bite treatment?

You can treat mild fire ant bites at home with the following steps:

  1. Slapping or brushing the ants off of your skin.
  2. Washing the affected skin with soap and cold water.
  3. Taking an oral antihistamine (an allergy medication, such as Benadryl®) may help the itchiness.
  4. Applying hydrocortisone cream on the affected skin two times a day should help reduce itchiness and the rash.
  5. Using cold compresses (ice packs) as needed can help reduce pain and swelling.

More serious systemic or anaphylactic reactions may require:

  • Oral corticosteroids such as prednisone.
  • Prescription-strength steroid creams or ointments.
  • Epinephrine injection (epi-pen).
  • Emergency medical attention, such as IV antihistamines, oxygen or even cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

If the blisters break and become infected, you may need antibiotics.

Should you pop a fire ant bite?

Don’t squeeze or pop the blisters. Doing so can lead to infections and scars.

Prevention

How can I prevent fire ant bites?

Certain strategies can help you reduce your risk of insect bites, including fire ant stings.

  • Apply insect repellent to your exposed skin and clothes.
  • Be careful whenever you lift something off the ground, such as logs, because fire ants may be underneath.
  • Contact a pest-control specialist if you see fire ants or colonies on your property.
  • Don’t disturb any nests, colonies or mounds.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants. Tuck your pants into your socks or shoes to cover any exposed skin.
  • Wear shoes when walking outside.
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Outlook / Prognosis

How long do fire ant bites last?

Most reactions to fire ant stings last about a week and don’t require much treatment except as mentioned above. Only about 2% of stings lead to severe reactions.

The blisters can leave scars, especially if you pick or pop them.

If you have a serious reaction to fire ant stings, consider consulting with an allergist after you recover. They may recommend allergy testing or a prescription for an epinephrine injector. This can help you in the event of a future fire ant sting.

Living With

When should I seek medical attention after a fire ant bite?

Seek immediate medical attention if you develop any signs of a systemic or anaphylactic reaction. Although anaphylaxis is rare, it can become life-threatening quickly, so quick action is key.

When should I seek medical attention for blisters?

If you have any blisters or think a blister may be infected, contact your healthcare provider or a dermatologist.

It’s important to seek medical attention if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills or body aches.
  • Increasing redness or red streaks on your skin.
  • Pain or itchiness that gets worse or doesn’t improve over a few days.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Fire ants are aggressive, venomous insects that sting. They cause painful, intensely itchy welts that turn into blisters. Though rare, fire ant venom can cause a life-threatening reaction. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any systemic symptoms.

Home remedies for fire ant bites that really work

Ever had a fire ant bite? TheyEver had a fire ant bite? They Ever had a fire ant bite? They

We’ve been doing lots of yard work at our home in South Carolina. Unfortunately for me, that led to experiencing the pain of fire ant bites first-hand, not once, but twice. The first time wasn’t too bad, though I asked friends on Facebook for home remedies for fire ant bites.

fire ant bites on foot

The second time was horrific! I had 37 fire ant bites on my feet and ankles.

At 3:00 a.m. with severe pain in both feet, I forgot the good advice of friends and went online instead to research home remedies for fire ant bites. I tried them all. Every. Single. One.

And then I remembered I had asked friends for advice on how to treat fire ant stings and scrolled through my feed to find the post.

I have really smart friends.

One of their remedies (suggested by many) actually worked.

This post is NOT a substitute for medical care. If you are unsure whether these treatments are safe for you OR if you are experiencing serious symptoms, including but not limited to trouble breathing, swelling of lips, mouth or face, hives over your whole body, fever, chills, or severe pain, call 911 and/or your doctor immediately.

First, How do you know when a fire ant stings you?

When people see fire ant bites on feet and ankles, they’re actually seeing fire ant stings.

When you disturb a fire ant, it grabs on with its mandibles (jaws) and gets to work. A fire ant stings repeatedly from its back end, releasing venom at the fire ant sting site.

fire ant bites on leg

If the initial burning pain doesn’t signal a fire ant bite, look for a circular pattern of stings. Fire ants hang on with the jaws, then sting in a circle pattern from the center point.

If it is an ant sting, What is the best thing to put on fire ant bites?

There are lots of suggested remedies for fire ant bites, but not all of them work.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND these as the best way to treat fire ant bites:

  • Topical antihisitamine (such as topical Benadryl cream). While recommended as a fire ant sting treatment, this cream is used to slow a histamine response. But fire ants sting, and use venom. Topical antihistamine might reduce the swelling and itch a little bit, but it does not effectively treat fire ant bites.
  • Topical hydrocortisone cream. This is another popular topical treatment for insect bites, but because fire ants sting and release venom, it doesn’t seem to be an effective way to treat fire ant bites.

Ineffective home remedies for fire ant bites

These home remedies for fire ant bites help (but they aren’t the best):

  • Baking soda. Mix one part baking soda with three parts water to create a paste. Spread the baking soda paste on the fire ant bites and let it sit for at least ten minutes. Then, rinse off with warm water. This fire ant sting treatment helps to alleviate the itch and burn, but the relief is short lived.
  • Toothpaste. If you don’t have baking soda, a baking soda or mint toothpaste for fire ant stings provides about the same effectiveness as the baking soda fire ant sting treatment. The cooling mint and baking soda ease the pain and itch. Like baking soda, the relief is short-lived.
  • Preparation H. When I was looking for home remedies for fire ant bites, I was surprised that many people recommend Preparation H for ant bites. It turns out that Preparation H contains pramoxine which is a topical pain reliever. It can temporarily relieve itching and pain of minor skin irritations like insect bites or rashes from poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.
  • Ice packs.I put ice packs on the worst clusters of fire ant stings. To use ice packs, apply with a layer of cloth so you don’t give the skin freezer burn. Keep ice on the bites for no more than 20 minutes. If you have blood circulation issues or underlying health conditions, talk to your doctor about the best use of ice packs.

Preparation H is one of the most effective home remedies for fire ant stings to control the pain

So, What are the best home remedies for fire ant bites?

After trying all these home remedies for fire ant bites, with Preparation H working best, I still had intense pain and itching from my 37 fire ant bites.

That’s when I remembered my friends on Facebook and looked for the post. Their recommendations? Yellow mustard and white vinegar.

Yellow mustard has a high vinegar content, so it makes sense that if these home remedies for fire ant bites worked, I could use either one.

White vinegar is a lot less messy, so I opted to try that first.

home remedies for fire ant stings that work include white vinegar

It worked! I finally had relief for my fire ant bites.

And it was so easy. I poured a small amount of white vinegar into a tea cup. Then, I dipped a cotton ball in the white vinegar in the cup, squeezed out the excess (so the cotton ball was wet but not dripping everywhere), and wiped it on my bites.

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The coolness helped immediately, a good fire ant sting treatment.

But then, 20 minutes later, the pain and itch was gone! I finally found the home remedies for fire ant bites that works. YAY!

Even better, the vinegar treatment lasted about four hours. There’s no risk in reapplying (though if you scratch the bites open it will sting). I used this fire ant sting treatment over the next 36 hours until the bites stopped burning and itching.

Since then, I’ve been bitten by a fire ant once more, only one bite, and used white vinegar immediately. The bite never bothered me again.

FAQ’s about Fire ant bites:

HOW LONG DO FIRE ANT BITES LAST?

The first time I got fire ant bites, I accidentally stepped into a mound while wearing sandals. A bunch of ants chomped down on my foot at one time, causing sudden, intense pain.

I jumped away from the mound to the driveway, safe from any nearby mounds. I brushed the fire ants off my foot and ran into the house to scrub my foot with soapy water.

Then, I iced it for about 20 minutes and applied some topical antihistamine. Within 12 hours, the pain and itching were gone.

The second time I got fire ant stings, I didn’t realize it. I wore footie socks and tennis shoes to protect my feet, watched (not carefully enough) where I stepped, and watered my new garden.

When I came back to the house, my legs itched, but not bad. I figured I had gotten mosquito bites or brushed against a plant I’m allergic to.

When I went to bed a few hours later, the itching intensified. I thought it was chigger bites which are common in the south. But, then the itching became intensely painful, and I went online to diagnose myself. (You do, too, right?)

That’s when I learned that the fire ant stings in a circular pattern. I looked at my bites. Yep. The telltale circular pattern confirmed what the intense fire ant bite pain was already telling me — they got me again. The pain and itching from the bites lasted about two days, thanks to the white vinegar home remedies for fire ant bites.

Untreated, fire ant bites can burn or itch for up to a week. Should you pop a fire ant bite, the open sore might take longer to heal — especially if it develops a secondary infection.

How common is Fire ant allergy?

I began to wonder if I was having an allergic reaction to ant bites. I am allergic to bee stings, so it wasn’t a big stretch to think I could be allergic to ant bites.

Here’s some helpful advice to determine if you are allergic to ant bites:

When in doubt, call your doctor or 911. This blog post is no substitute for professional medical advice. It is merely a guide.

  1. All fire ant bites (the red bump) are an allergic-type reaction to the fire ant venom.
  2. Most people do not develop a more severe allergic reaction to ant bites, but it is possible.
  3. Someone severely allergic to ant bites will (probably) have an intense response within a few minutes of the fire ant’s sting.
  4. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to ant bites include:
    • Trouble with breathing,
    • Dizziness,
    • Swelling of the tongue or throat,
    • Confusion,
    • Loss of consciousness.

A severe allergic reaction to ant bites should be treated promptly. Call 911 or your doctor if you suspect a severe fire ant allergy.

Should you pop a fire ant bite?

Fire ant bites develop a nasty looking pustule (Ewwww… even the word is gross) several hours to one day after the initial fire ant sting. You might wonder should you pop a fire ant bite to release the venom or drain the bite or just get rid of the gross pustule.

It looks gross, but no, you should NOT pop a fire ant bite. That opens the skin and creates a risk of secondary infection from the open wound. You’re also more likely to develop a scar from the open wound.

If you found this post informative, you may also enjoy these:

  • Gardening made easy: How to reroot plant clippings.
  • Five healthy foods that taste great, too.
  • Easy summer recipes the whole family will love.

SHARE THIS POST!

If you live in an area where there are lots of fire ants, share this post. The more we know, the smarter we are! And knowing effective home remedies for fire ant bites is a really important thing in the south! (I’ll admit, it also encourages me to know the stuff I write makes a difference.)

best home remedies for fire ant bites

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Susan Cotton says December 7, 2020 at 6:12 am

THANK YOU…THANK YOU….THANK YOU. For writing this ALL!! My 78 year old diabetic mother in Florida has been suffering intensely nonstop all day and night from what she called “a million” fire ant bites….and she has had no relief and she does not have too many things (home remedy supplies or items) to use to help her and what she has tried has not done any good at all and she is so wiped out and exhausted because she can’t sleep. Actually the pain and itch and swelling have left her feeling very sick. She one that goes to bed at strictly 8:30 pm and she was still struggling and suffering at 2:00 am. I was afraid to wake her by texting her all that I found out for home remedies but on the other hand I kind of figured that maybe she couldn’t even sleep…so I read a few articles and remedies before yours and then sent them to her; and then I read yours and then I told her she really needed to read your article….and I told her about your not so great experiences with all those others that I had just suggested to her (my mom). I got a message about 15 minutes after I sent the information about your experience and that she needed to try vinegar and if she didn’t have that I gave her other vinegar suggestions….like the mustard, if none of that look at ingredients and she could try dill pickles/juice and possibly ketchup? And she said “Thanks vinegar worked” …and I bet when she wakes up after finally sleeping….she will be calling to thank me much more….So I am thanking you for me and from my mom!! That was very kind and empathetic of you to share your story, knowledge and experiences!! We are very grateful and appreciative!

  • Karen says February 2, 2021 at 2:30 pm

I live on Merritt Island in Florida now and I’m allergic to bees, spiders and I guess Fire Ants too. I am trying out the White Vinegar and so far it is starting to feel better. Thank You for the help in trying to figure out what to do. I have 2 good size bites on my right foot up near my toes and the vinegar is helping to take the itchiness out. I am so grateful to you for posting this remedy.

  • Judi Smith says February 12, 2021 at 7:51 pm

I live on Merritt Island in Florida now and I’m allergic to bees, spiders and I guess Fire Ants too. I am trying out the White Vinegar and so far it is starting to feel better. Thank You for the help in trying to figure out what to do. I have 2 good size bites on my right foot up near my toes and the vinegar is helping to take the itchiness out. I am so grateful to you for posting this remedy. Now I just need to find some kind of deterrent to keep from getting any bites in the future. Any ideas of what I can use? Please email me at: [email protected] . Thank You

How long does it range to heal?

  • Karen says January 9, 2023 at 9:05 am

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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