Ants are the titans of insect industry. They are also pesky picnic-crashers and miniature invaders. Many of us know the plight of trying to keep them out of our homes, especially during the summer. While they can be annoying, they're generally not an insect we find ourselves afraid of.
But there is a breed of ant that everyone knows exists, but no one wants to encounter. Solenopsis invicta, the red imported fire ant (RIFA), is 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 stinging a victim multiple times by holding on with their strong jaws and whipping their abdomen and stinger back and forth. The most common reaction to a fire ant sting is itching coupled with a small bump, which usually clears up within 30-60 minutes. A pus-filled blister like a pimple may form within 8-12 hours.
If you fall victim to their prey, you don’t have to suffer through it. Here are some simple ways to beat the “heat” caused by a fire ant bite:
- DO NOT SCRATCH. It will make the itch 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, use a cold towel or ice pack instead. Avoid the heat.
- Raise the part of your body where you were stung to reduce swelling.
- If you have allergies or sensitive skin, check with your doctor and consider
- Applying hydrocortisone cream on your skin to relieve itching.
- Taking an antihistamine to manage minor, localized allergic reactions and itching.
- Take an oatmeal bath to soothe the skin.
Signs That A Sting Has Turned Serious
If you experience a swollen tongue, dramatic swelling, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath, or other allergic reaction symptoms, contact your doctor and seek help 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. If you live in an area where fire ants are common, it’s best to keep these treatment tips in your back pocket, and the contact information for your doctor on hand. For more information on fire ant prevention, visit the US Department of Agriculture's 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 your local Mosquito Squad.