If you come from the southern United States, chances are you have heard of fire ants. If you’ve never been bitten by them, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Between 30 to 60 percent of people living in areas infested by the RIFA (red imported fire ant) suffer stings annually.
That’s right, fire ants sting, and that’s what causes the damage. Fire ant venom contains alkaloids such as piperidine, causing a sting that results in a raised bump along with moderate to severe pain and irritation. These bumps often develop into white pustules, which run the risk of becoming infected if scratched.
They are uncomfortable while active, and they are also prone to scarring if they do become infected. In cases of people who are allergic to fire ant venom, anaphylactic shock is a real danger.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, fire ants tend to swarm their victim if the fire ant nest, or mound, is disturbed. Children are at great risk due to their smaller size and their curiosity.
What can you do to treat a fire ant sting?
In the case of an all out swarming attack, you should seek medical attention immediately. The risks of several bites are just too high to attempt to treat this at home. In the case of an allergy, epinephrine must be administered as soon as possible.
If you know you are not allergic, and you have not sustained several stings, there are some steps you can take to lessen the pain and irritation of a sting. While some of these treatments have little or no medical base, some people swear by them.
Before you try any of these, try to take an antihistamine, like Benadryl, to lessen the chance of an allergic reaction, then wash the sting area.
After that, you can try one of the following:
- Saturate a paper towel with Worcestershire sauce and apply it to the stings.
- Place a penny over the sting and hold it in place with scotch tape. Some people have said that it instantly relieves the pain, and the swelling is gone in a few hours.
- Cut open a fresh lime and rub it over the stings in several different directions until the pain and itching stops. Users say that once you have saturated the area with lime, they didn’t get any pustules or scarring.
- Apply plantain extract to the sting.
- Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the stings.
- Make a paste of meat tenderizer and water and apply it to the stings.
- Saturate a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and apply it to the stings.
- Saturate a cotton ball with vinegar and apply it to the stings.
- Make a paste of aspirin and water and apply it to the stings.
- Make a paste of salt and water and apply it to the stings.
- Soak a cotton ball with tea tree oil and apply it to the stings.
- Apply aloe vera juice or gel to the stings.
- Apply antibacterial dish soap to the stings.
- Similar to the lime, cut a fresh onion in half and rub it onto the stings.
- Soak a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide and apply it to the stings.
- Wrap an ice pack in a hand towel and hold it to the stings.
- Apply alternating peppermint oil and lavender oil to the stings.
It is unknown why some of these remedies work, but some people swear by them, and they’re all fairly safe, even if a few of them are rather unpleasant. I don’t imagine you’ll keep much company if you rub yourself down with an onion, but if it works and it’s all you’ve got, you might as well give it a try.
Some of the more common remedies like peroxide, alcohol, aspirin, or aloe vera work for obvious reasons. Also, some of the liquid and paste solutions can be stored in a spray bottle for immediate use if you know you are going to be working in close proximity to fire ants.
Of course the best course of action is to avoid fire ants whenever possible, but accidents can and usually do happen, so it’s best to be prepared. If you know you are allergic, always keep an emergency epinephrine pen handy.