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Ant bites

    • Since arriving in the United States in the early 1900s in Alabama, the imported fire ant has spread throughout the Southeast from Texas to North Carolina and accounts for more than 90% of ants in the southern states.
    • The imported fire ant is small, 3 to 6 mm, black or red (see photo) and inhabit mounds of loose dirt or sand in sunny, open areas.
    • When their mound is disturbed, ants aggresively latch on to the skin of the victim first by biting, then injecting venom through its stinger while rotating in a circle around its head.
      • Ants are capable of inflicting multiple stings.


    • Half of the deaths reported each year involving stinging insects involve fire ants.


What does an ant bite look like?

    • In most people, imported ant stings result in some redness and swelling with a small vesicle (white to yellow clear fluid filled bump) at the bite site.
    • After 8 – 10 hours, the fluid in the vesicle becomes cloudy and becomes a pustule which typically develops some redness around it (see photo called Ant bite).
    • The pustules typically are very itchy and may remain for a couple of weeks. Redness and swelling may persist around the pustule for several days.
    • Sometimes the pustule can become infected, especially if they are scratched a lot.


Can an ant bite cause other signs of illness?

    • Although less common, a skin reaction to an ant bite may occur away from the bite site as well including hives (see photo called Hives), itching, and redness.
    • Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) may occur in some individuals after being stung by ants.

- a severe reaction may occur immediately
or hours after a sting

-  a severe allergic reaction may involve breathing
difficulty (wheezing), swelling deep in the throat,
or low blood pressure

Because the venom from ant bites is different than the other stinging insects (e.g., wasps, bees), a person who develops allergic reactions to ant bites does not necessarily develop allergic reactions when stung by a wasp or yellow jacket, for example.

What is the treatment for an ant bite(s)?

  1. Cool compresses to the area of redness and swelling
  2. Keeping the bite clean with soap and water
  3. Antihistamines for hives and itching
  4. Topical corticosteroids may be recommended in some cases

Individuals who know they are allergic to ant bites (or any stinging insect for that matter) should carry an epinephrine (adrenalin) auto-injector (Epi-Pen) whenever they may be exposed to these insects.

  • For more information on Epi-Pens see http://www.allergicchild.com/epipen_ana_medicalert.htm
  • An Epi-Pen is available by prescription from a physician.
  • Your pediatrician may recommend consultation with an allergist/immunologist for evaluation and possible skin testing for fire ant hypersensitivity if your child has had a serious reaction to a fire ant sting.

When should I call my pediatrician concerning an ant bite(s)?

  • It is best to call for specific instructions when the area on your child where the sting occurred is expanding rapidly or pain and itching is increasing despite cool compresses and antihistamines.
  • You should also call your doctor or 911 immediately if your child’s symptoms worsen such as difficulty breathing, significant lethargy or anytime an Epi-Pen is required.

How can ant bites be prevented?

Specific tips

1. Watch your step of course and if a fire ant mound is disturbed remove your child quickly as fire ants are aggressive and a mound will come alive quickly.

2. Know your surroundings: Fire ants prefer warm, sunny areas and can appear along a sidewalk, the base of a tree and even a playground or park.

3. Schedule a professional treatment if you find fire ant mounds on your property. To find a professional logon to nofireants.com.