Fire Ants Stung Me. What Should I Do?

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on October 19, 2020

Ouch! You're probably going to have lots of stings. Each ant can sting more than once.

People can have different reactions, such as itching, a swollen foot or arm, or even a severe allergic reaction that needs immediate medical care.

Is My Reaction Normal or Risky?

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).

Some people have larger reactions around the sting. For example, one on your arm might cause your whole arm to swell. If you’re OK apart from that, you can start the following treatment on your own and then see your doctor.

  • Ice the sting off and on (15 minutes on, 15 minutes off). Use an ice pack, or put the ice in a towel. Don’t put ice directly on your skin, and don’t use heat.
  • Raise the part of your body where you got stung 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.

A severe allergic reaction is rare, but it can be life-threatening. Symptoms include hives, cramping in your gut with nausea or diarrhea, tightness in your chest, trouble breathing, dizziness, and swelling of your tongue or throat. Call 911 right away. If you have an epinephrine shot, use it, and repeat after 5 to 15 minutes if your symptoms haven't improved. You'll still need medical care right after you give yourself the shots, even if your symptoms seem to stop, in order to prevent a delayed reaction.

4 Ways to Avoid Fire Ants

  1. Stay away from fire ant nests. Be careful when you mow the lawn or work in your garden.
  2. Hire a trained exterminator to check for and get rid of fire ant nests around your home.
  3. Wear shoes and socks when you walk outside.
  4. Wear gloves when you garden.

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 if allergy shots would help and if you should carry an epinephrine auto-injector. If your doctor prescribes one, carry two injections with you.

WebMD Medical Reference



American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: "Fire Ant Sting Allergy."

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: "Stinging Insect Allergy."

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