Medical and Home Remedies

Sunday of this week I went over to check on a house I had staged and saw results from the past few days of storms and blowing wind. There were limbs laying on the ground underneath a palm tree. The limbs were brown, and a little damp. Non the less, I decided to pick them up, with bare hands (mistake #1) and drag them to the curb for trash pick up. I had taken about ten steps when my arms began to burn, sting, and itch all at the same time. When looking down towards the pile of dead leaves, I saw both arms now covered with fire ants. Dropping the limbs to the ground, then doing what some folks would call a ‘pee pee dance’ while attempting to brush the sticky insects off my now red, bumpy, itchy, burning arms.

If you’ve not come in contact with one of God’s tiny red venomous creatures, let this be a lesson in what NOT to do, or wear. A sleeveless ‘Mickey’ shirt, loose fitting shorts or pink Crocs should NOT be worn when walking through dead palm tree limbs. These ants are anything but sluggard. They don’t just bite you then leave. No, these mini monsters use their venom to stun their prey, allowing large groups of fire ants to overcome much larger animals quickly, such as box turtles; and apparently unsuspecting intruders who walk into their path.

Fire ant venom tests suggest that the venom contains poison that affects the nervous system. This may explain why some fire ant sting victims report hallucinations and other similar symptoms, particularly after getting a large number of stings. (Okay, so how many bites equal a large number of stings)?

Symptoms of Fire Ant Bites

A fire ant sting often begins with an intense pinching or burning pain immediately after the sting. This pain is short-lived, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. (It’s been 15 minutes and still painful).  Next comes itching or burning that may be mild or intense. Itching tends to get stronger over the next few days. (Monday morning will be most unbearable.) 

Fire ant stings produce a mark that sets them apart from other insect stings. The wounds are pus-filled blisters that are round and may look like pimples.  As fire ants tend to attack their victims in groups, the stings often come in clusters. Blisters appear quickly, usually within 20 minutes of a fire ant attack. (maybe I got lucky, no blisters yet).

Home Remedies

  • Applying cold compresses to reduce swelling – 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off
  • Using a hydro-cortisone cream on the skin to relieve itching.
  • Taking an antihistamine to manage minor, localized allergic reactions and itching
  • Applying a triple antibiotic ointment to the stings can help prevent infection in stings that have been opened by scratching
  • It is important to resist the urge to scratch the stings. Seriously?  Sure, scratching can open the blisters and cause infection, but how does a person NOT scratch an itch that feels like its coming from the inside out, which it actually is doing just that.

Too late for me, my right arm is now swollen just beneath the elbow, and getting numb to the touch with arms resting on the desk. It’s been over an hour since my ‘ant attack’.  IT STILL  ITCHES!! Now counting the seconds until I can take a break to ease the irritating itch and just S C R A T C H!!!! 

Medical Remedies 

Breathing difficulties, changes in consciousness, severe swelling, and similar symptoms within an hour of the sting require emergency medical care. (Currently not having breathing difficulties and no change in consciousness, that i can recall).  Visiting the Emergency Department or a walk in clinic for treatment with epinephrine can reverse the reaction.

Infected stings may require antibiotics. My spouse reminded me of another side effect he’s noticed;  whining and another word that rhymes with witching. 

Preventive Treatment

  • Moving out of an area immediately if bitten by a fire ant or fire ants are found on the body (thank you Mr Obvious)
  • Wearing protective clothing like thick socks and boots while working outdoors (got me there).

One pickleball player claims the best remedy to keep from getting blisters is to spray the bite area immediately with WD40. So if you should get bitten by fire ants and you’re near the pickleball courts between 8-10 am, just ask for ‘Jimmy’.

Now my fingers are numb and tingly. Maybe a trip to the drug store or even the Emergency Dept. might be in order.



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Pam Batey

Moved to Tanglewood in August 2016, with husband, Steve and dog, Maggie. Retired Paramedic, now continuing my hobby writing short stories and information in the "You and Your Health" Section of the newsletter. Active Member of Tanglewood Community Church.