Ants are the titans of insect industry. They are also pesky picnic-crashers and miniature invaders. We try to keep them out of our homes and, if we can, avoid them all together. Generally, we’re not afraid of them.
But there are those unlucky few that met with that kind of ant everyone knows exists but never wants to encounter. Solenopsis Invicta or the red imported fire ant (RIFA) is part of an invasive species that dominates areas of the southern and western United States - Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
RIFA are distinguishable by their reddish brown or reddish black body and, most notably, they are capable of both biting AND stinging. They are also able to strike more than once, so it’s likely if you have one sting, you have many.
The most common reaction to a fire ant bite or sting is ITCHING coupled with a small lump, which usually clears up within 30-60 minutes. A pus-filled blister like a pimple may form within 8-12 hours.
But you don’t have to suffer through it. Here are some simple ways to beat the “heat” caused by a fire ant:
- DO NOT SCRATCH! It will make it worse and leave you vulnerable to infection.
- Ice the area, alternating 15-20 minutes on, 15-20 minutes off the sting. Don’t put ice directly on your skin and avoid heat. Use a cold towel or ice pack instead.
- Raise the part of your body where you were stung to reduce swelling.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream on your skin to relieve itching.
- Take an antihistamine to manage minor, localized allergic reactions and itching.
- Apply a triple antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection that may be caused by scratching.
- Remember when you had the chicken pox? Take an oatmeal bath to soothe the skin.
Signs that a sting may be more serious are dramatic swelling, dizziness, swollen tongue, sweating, shortness of breath or allergic reaction. If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to contact a medical professional immediately. A doctor may want to treat the sting with stronger antihistamines or steroids.
Not all fire ant varieties (non-RIFA) are invasive; however, they all pack a painful, itchy punch. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to keep these treatment tips in your back pocket should you fall prey to bites or stings. For more information on fire ant prevention, visit the US Department of Agriculture website.Please note that we are not medical professionals. We are mosquito professionals. For any medical questions, you should always consult a doctor. For mosquitoes, you should always contact Mosquito Squad.