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Fire Ant Stings

Topic Overview

Fire ants are wingless insects that belong to the same family of insects as bees and wasps. Fire ants are found in the southeastern and south-central United States, especially along the Gulf Coast. They tend to attack and sting in great numbers.

A fire ant attaches itself to a person by biting with its jaws. Then, pivoting its head, it stings from its belly in a circular pattern at multiple sites. Symptoms of a fire ant sting may include:

  • A painful raised bump that becomes a pus-filled blister in 6 to 24 hours and lasts for up to 10 days.
  • Skin at the bite site that dies and leaves a scar or bump.
  • A severe life-threatening allergic reaction.
  • A toxic reaction when there have been 20 or more stings.
  • Redness and swelling extending beyond the sting site.
  • Serum sickness, a rare reaction to stings. Flu-like symptoms and hives begin 7 to 14 days after an insect sting.

Home treatment can help relieve pain and prevent infection. Severe reactions require emergency medical treatment.

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine

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