Fire Ant Allergy: How Dangerous is it?

Fire ants are a type of stinging ants, which are most common southeastern United States.  Most people get accidentally bitten by fire ants and the probability of being stung by them over the course of the year is 50%.

Fire ants are related to flying insects such as honeybees, hornets, and wasps. The sting of a fire ant can cause allergies to people who are allergic to insect bites. Hence, people should be careful and take precautions to prevent fire ants.

Fire ants live in colonies underground and build mounds in dirt, which can reach up to 4 feet high. These mounds are guarded carefully by the ants.  When people step over the mound, they can get stung by multiple ants.

Fire ant allergy:

Normal reaction to fire ant sting includes local swelling, pain and redness at the site of sting. The fire ant venom causes a pus-filled blister at the site of the sting. However, in the case of an allergy the following symptoms occur:

  • Large area of swelling
  • Redness, pain, and itching at the site of the sting

The above symptoms can lead to anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening. Following are the symptoms of anaphylaxis from fire ant stings:

  • Wheezing
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchy/watery eyes
  • Low blood pressure
  • Swelling of throat, lips, or tongue

Treatment for fire ant allergy:

Fire ant allergy can be treated in the following ways:

  • For anaphylaxis, immediate use of injectable epinephrine is recommended.
  • For large local reactions, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines can be used. Ice pack can also be applied to this area to reduce the swelling
  • Long-term solutions for fire ant allergies include allergy shots or immunotherapy for a period of 3 to 5 years.

Who are at risk?

Children, while playing outside, can mistake the fire ant mounds for sand piles and step over them. People who are involved outdoor occupations, gardening, outdoor sports, are at risk of being stung by a fire ants. However, fire ants can also get indoors into places such as hotels, nursing homes etc.

Preventive measures:

The following prevent measures can be followed to protect yourself from a fire ant sting:

  • Always wear shoes and socks when outdoors
  • Use insecticides to destroy the fire ants
  • Use Fire ant bait, which can be sprinkled over the mounds and large areas to destroy the fire ants

Fire ants are dangerous as they sting in large numbers. People with insect allergies should take preventive measures and prevent their contact with fire ants. An injectable epinephrine such as EpiPen should be carried always to prevent an anaphylactic reaction.

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