What is fire ant? Where is it found? What types of reactions may occur after a fire ant sting? How is fire ant anaphylaxis and what are the best treatment for it? These are very important question. Fire ant can induce a severe allergy, called anaphylaxis. More than half of the people who live in area where fire ant are found receive stings each year.

Those people who are stung, around half have some type of severe allergic reaction. Even without allergic reaction, the fire ant sting is so much painful and it can lead to the risk of infection.

What is fire ant?

Fire ant is a type of stinging ant that was accidentally imported into the United States from South Africa. The import was already happened in the early 1900s. Now fire ant have spread into much of southeastern US and Texas.

Actually there are native species of fire ants present in the United States, they do not pose the same threat to humans as imported fire ant.

How common are Fire Ant Stings?

The largest population of fire ant is in southeastern United States, people in that location are frequently stung by them. The chance of being stung is greater than 50 % over the course of a year for the general population, this rate is likely much more higher for those who have outdoor hobbies or occupations. For instance, people with outdoor sport or gardening hobby is much more frequent got fire ant sting.

Fire ant is not only found in outdoor, some of the fire ants found and reported to sting people indoor, including nursing home, home, and hotels.

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Elderly and those with disabilities may be at even greater risk of fire ant sting.

When fire ant encounters people, it tends to sting. People may be stung multiple times and by multiple ants. Fire ant usually grasps a person’skin with its jaw.

The fire ant will then remove its stinger, rotate in a circular fashion, it repeats to sting again and again. The combination of large numbers of fire ants in a nest and their ability to sting repeatedly lead to a hundred sting.

Fire ant size is small and typically red or black color. Fire ant lives in a large colony in the ground and build mounds. This fire art is related to other flying stinging insects such as like honeybees and hornets.

What is Fire Ant Anaphylaxis?

There are several types of allergic reaction that occur in response to a fire ant sting including;

Usual reaction – the typical reaction occur essentially 100 % of people stung by fire ant. The symptoms of the usual reaction is like localized pain, swelling, and redness at the site of the sting. Just in 24 hours, a pus-filled blister will develop. This blister is not an infection, it is caused by fire ant venom. This is not a sign of allergy, but it is like a physical response to the common sting.

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Large Local Reaction – large located reactions are probably allergic in nature. The symptoms are like a large area swelling, pain, redness, and itchy at the site of the sting. The reaction usually occurs in 12 to 24 hours after the sting.

Anaphylaxis – this is the most dangerous and threaten life reaction after stung by fire ant. Considering how common fire ant stings are in regions where this fire ant live, this is a big problem. Fire ant anaphylaxis can threaten life and the symptoms of fire ant anaphylaxis may include;

  • Hive or swelling that spread the site of the sting to other body part
  • Flushing
  • A runny nose, sneezing , or cough
  • Watery eyes
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
  • Shallow respiration, wheezing, or ronchi.
  • Stomach camping, nausea, vomit, and diarrhea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Anxiety or sense of panic
  • Metallic taste in the mouth

Toxic Reaction – Toxic reaction can mimic anaphylaxis. But the toxic reaction occurs when there are hundreds sting. In toxic reaction, there are no antibody present; the symptoms are caused by the large amount of venom that is injected by fire ant.

Fire Ant Anaphylaxis Diagnosis

The diagnosis for fire ant anaphylaxis is based on allergic reaction history to fire ant sting. The allergy test or skin test using fire ant extract is the preferred method of allergy testing. Blood tests are also recommended as a skin tests alternatives.

These diagnoses should only performed in those people who should be considered for allergy shots, or immunotherapy, using fire ant extract.

The fire ant anaphylaxis diagnosis are needed for certain people.

Diagnosis is not needed – if the person has never been stung by fire ant, or have no symptoms after the sting.

The diagnosis is also not recommended if a child under 16 years old only experiences skin symptoms (Read the symptoms again above) after a sting, he or she does not need allergy test.

If a child or an adult has a large local reaction. There is no reason to perform venom testing to administer fire ant allergy shots. This is because anaphylaxis is only about 5 – 10 percent for both.

Diagnosis is Needed – if a person of any age has symptoms of anaphylaxis after the sting. The diagnosis is really needed. That is because the person has about 50 – 60 % change that future fire ant stings will cause a similar reaction. The allergy reaction will decrease over time. A person older than 16 years old with symptoms; hive, swelling, or other skin symptoms after the sting should be tested and treat soon.

Treatments for Fire Ant Anaphylaxis

The treatments for fire ant anaphylaxis depends on the degree of the allergic reaction. Treatments includes not only for acute setting, but also chronic and prevention.


The best way to prevent fire ant anaphylaxis is to avoid of being stung. You may use some tips as follows;

  • Hire a trained exterminator to treat any known fire ant mounds in your area. Periodic surveillance for further infestation should be performed.
  • Always wear shoes when walking outside, especially activity on grass.
  • Wear pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves, shoes and socks.

Acute fire ant anaphylaxis treatment

Pustules – There is no medication for pustule formation on your skin (pustules). You just need to keep it clean and dry. You may clean it with soap or water, and hand sanitizer. Keep in mind that pustule is not an infection, it is just a fire ant venom. But it has change to be a secondary infection.

The pustule that is caused by sting could heal in 3 to 10 days. Prevent the secondary infection with first aid cream regularly such as Bacitracin or Neosporin. Cover the blister with a bandage so that it can decrease the chance of secondary infection.

Large local reaction – large local reaction has a specific sign and symptoms with a large swelling at the site of the sting. It can be treated with over – the – counter medication (anti-inflammatory medicines) such as ibuprofen. Antihistamines can be used as well.

To reduce the large swelling, compress the sting site with ice and elevate it. Lastly, a topical steroid medication, such as hydrocortisone 1% cream, could be applied to reduce the swelling stronger.

Anaphylaxis – the fire ant anaphylaxis treatment could be treated with injectable epinephrine immediately (EpiPen) to safe life.

Epipen Anaphylaxis for Fire Ant Treatment

Epipen Anaphylaxis for Fire Ant Allergy Treatment

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Chronic Treatment

Chronic treatment are allergy shots, or immunotherapy, using fire ant extract. These shots are similar as shots in other flying stinging extract allergy.

All people in any ages with history of allergic reaction to insect sting, include children with skin only-reaction and those who have large local allergic reaction, should wear a bracelet (medical alert bracelet or tools) that identifies their medical condition. It is also recommended being close or have an emergency treatment such as Epipen medication if there is something happened.