3 Home Remedies to Relieve the Sting of Fire Ants
Alleviating pain and itchiness is a priority when fire ants attack you. Take extra measures to prevent scratching, keep the wound clean and effectively treat the pain to enjoy a fast, uncomplicated recovery.
1. Ice and Elevation
Clean the affected area with mild soap and water as soon as possible to relieve burning and minimize the risk of infection. Use an ice pack to reduce pain and discomfort. Wrap the ice in a thin cloth and apply directly to the wound for about 15 minutes. Repeat the application every 15 minutes as needed. A cold compress used in the same way is also effective. Keep the ant bites elevated to reduce swelling.
2. Over-the-Counter Medications
An antihistamine and a hydrocortisone cream effectively relieve the pain and itching associated with most fire ant stings. Take an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl to control itchiness, and use a topical hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation. Depending on the severity of the sting(s), you may want to cover the area with a bandage to help the skin absorb the cream. Take these medications as needed, according to package directions, to manage pain, swelling and itching.
3. Vinegar, Baking Soda and Meat Tenderizer
A combination of basic household ingredients can also effectively relieve your symptoms. Vinegar is a neutralizing cleansing agent, and it can take the place of soap and water. Baking soda soothes irritated skin, reducing itchiness and inflammation. Meat tenderizer contains an enzyme that attacks the fire ant venom directly to reduce pain and itching.
Dampen meat tenderizer with water to make a thick paste and apply it directly to the ant bites. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly with warm water. Use vinegar and baking soda independently, or make a paste with both ingredients and apply it to the wound. These ingredients provide a natural alternative to over-the-counter medications.
Expected Recovery Time
The burning, itchy sensation that occurs immediately after a fire ant sting usually subsides within an hour, but mild itching may continue for several hours. A firm, white bump forms over the bite site within the first 24 hours, and some pain and tenderness is possible. The marks typically take about a week to disappear completely. Excessive scratching increases the risk of infection, which may prolong recovery.
When To See a Doctor
In a small number of cases, individuals have a serious allergic reaction to fire ant bites and require immediate emergency treatment. If you experience breathing difficulties, swelling in the tongue or throat, vomiting, diarrhea or dizziness, call 911 immediately. Hives, stomach cramps and tightness in the chest are other symptoms that require timely medical attention.
Localized allergic reactions are generally milder and occur more often. These adverse reactions typically result in severe swelling of the area surrounding the bite site(s). For instance, a person's arm may swell due to ant bites on his hand. Mild allergic reactions such as these do not always require a doctor. Contact your physician if pain and itching persist after home treatment or if your symptoms worsen.
Fire ants are vicious when their nests are disturbed. It is not uncommon to experience multiple stings from several ants if you accidentally come across their home. These bites are quite painful and often extremely itchy, but in most cases, fire ant stings are safely treatable at home.