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Fire ants are insects that sting and are typically found in the South and Southeastern to Southwestern areas of the United States. The fire ant stings can occur anytime throughout the year, but peaks during the summer months. Fire ants sting by attaching itself to the skin, injecting its venom, and stinging on average of 8 stings at a time.
The fire ant stings can cause painful local reactions and even life threatening anaphylaxis. Typical reactions present with localized pain, swelling, and redness at the sting site. A pus-filled blister usually develops within 24 hours and is a usual physical response to the venom from the sting. Large local reactions include symptoms with large areas of swelling, redness, pain, and itching around the site of the sting occurring within 12 to 24 hours. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that is life-threatening. Symptoms involve itching all over, hives or swelling at site of sting, flushing, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, and shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing. Other signs include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, or passing out.
The treatment for fire ant sting allergies depends on the severity of the reaction. Treatment includes addressing acute reactions, developing chronic management, and preventing future stings.
Treating acute reactions involves gently washing with soap and water, and keeping the pus-filled blisters dry and clean. Using antibacterial creams may help reduce the chances of an infection. For large local reactions, using pain medications, such as ibuprofen, antihistamines, such as Benadryl, or topical steroid creams can help with alleviating the pain and minimizing the reaction. In cases of an anaphylaxis allergic reaction, treatment with an EpiPen immediately is critical. Medical assistance should also be contacted as soon as possible.
For chronic management, allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, can be given on a monthly basis. The allergy shots can help modify and prevent future allergic reactions. Symptoms of severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis, can be reduced with this treatment option.
Prevention is the best way to avoid an allergic reaction caused by fire ant stings. You can hire a trained exterminator to get rid of any fire ant mounds in your area and conduct regular surveillance for additional infestations. Always wear shoes when walking outside. When working outdoors wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves, boots and socks. Use insect repellent made to deter fire ants, and avoid stepping on the fire ant mounds.
If you would like to discuss other ways to treat and avoid allergic reactions caused by fire ant stings, give us a call at 805-658-9500. The specialists at Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Medical Group are experienced allergists that can help you with your allergy management needs.