Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
You catch a whiff of a co-worker's new fragrance, and within minutes, you
have a whopper of a headache.
You pop open that new bottle of dish-washing liquid, and by the time you've
washed the pots and pans, your hands and arms are covered in hives.
You walk into a friend's home and smell freshly baked pumpkin pie. Only
after you start sneezing uncontrollably and feeling dizzy, weak, and sick to
your stomach do you learn she hasn't been baking...
It’s normal to have a small, itchy lump, which usually gets better in 30 to 60 minutes. Within 8-24 hours you may get a small blister filled with fluid that looks like pus (it’s actually dead tissue).
In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction could cause hives, abdominal cramping with nausea or diarrhea, tightness in the chest, trouble breathing, dizziness, and swelling of the tongue or throat. These symptoms can be life-threatening. If you have an Auvi-Q or Epi-Pen (epinephrine shot), use it. Then call 911 right away. You still need to go to the hospital, even if the shot worked.
Some people have larger reactions around the sting. For example, a sting on your arm might cause your whole arm to swell. If you’re otherwise OK, you can start treatment on your own and then see your doctor. Here's how:
Put ice on the sting off and on (15 minutes on, 15 minutes off). Use a towel. Don’t put ice directly on your skin and don’t use heat.
Elevate the area of the sting to reduce swelling.
Take an antihistamine and use a hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching.
If the sting is very large and painful your doctor may give you prescription antihistamines and steroids.
Reducing Your Risk
Once you have had a reaction to a fire ant sting, you have a 60% chance of having a similar or worse reaction if you are stung again. Ask your doctor about an Auvi-Q or EpiPen -- carry two injections with you if your doctor prescribes it -- and ask whether allergy shots would help.
To help reduce your risk of future stings:
Stay away from fire ant nests. Be careful when mowing the lawn.
Have a trained exterminator check for and get rid of fire ant nests around your home.