Summer in the south has arrived. Unfortunately, with the increase in the temperatures comes an increase in the activity of all sorts of critters. Fire ants are just about everywhere these days, and they can ruin your summer fun. A few simple tips can limit the pain and problems associated with fire ant bites.
As anyone who has ever been bitten by a fire ant can tell you, their bites can be pretty painful. When you are outside and you feel that sharp, burning pain on your feet or legs that is characteristic of fire ant bites, the first thing you need to do is get as far away from the fire ant colony as possible. This will prevent further bite activity. When you are at a safe distance, try to brush the ants off your feet and legs. Fire ants tend to clamp hard on to skin, and so they may be difficult to remove. It may be necessary to squeeze any remaining ants off by their body and pull them off the skin surface.
Allergic reactions to fire ant bites are rare but can and do happen. The signs to look for would be swelling that occurs in areas other than where you were bitten, difficulty breathing, nausea or chest tightness. These signs may be indicative of a medical emergency. If these occur 911 should be contacted immediately.
Most people bitten by fire ants will not experience an allergic reaction, but will instead experience pain, itching and burning at the bite sites. An antihistamine product, such as Benadryl, may help to minimize these symptoms. Topical application of hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion may be beneficial. Application of ice to the area and compression, such as an Ace bandage, may help to minimize swelling and pain. Oral anti-inflammatories such as Motrin may also help reduce pain and inflammation.
Fire ant bites will typically develop a small blister shortly after the incident. This blister is a sterile environment and should be left alone. Blisters should not be popped. If a blister pops inadvertently, it should be treated as an open wound. This means keeping the area clean with a topical antiseptic such as betadine and applying antibiotic cream, such as Neosporin. The area of a popped blister should be covered with a Band-Aid. Diabetics and individuals with poor circulation should be particularly mindful of the signs of infection, which would most commonly be redness and swelling which is spreading outside of the area of the original blister. If these occur, consult your podiatrist as soon as possible.