Fire Ants: How to Treat and Prevent Ant Bites

Insect Shield bug repellent clothing deters ants.

You’ll encounter ants everywhere you go. There are more than 12,000 ant species in the world, and for the most part, they are harmless. But there are plenty of biting and stinging ant species to be aware of so you can avoid the painful aftermath. 

What Types of Ants Bite?     

All ants can bite, but, of the species that make an impact, fire ants are most well known. There are four species of fire ants in the United States. Two are considered native and two others, also known as red imported fire ants (or RIFAs), are an invasive species from South America. These imported fire ants are very aggressive and are found mostly throughout the southeastern part of the U.S. 

It's no secret that one of the best ways to avoid ant bites is by wearing Insect Shield permethrin treated clothing combined with a topical repellent like Deet.

Red fire ants not only bite, they sting numerous times, causing a painful burning sensation that also gave them their name. Other ant species sting, like harvester ants, carpenter ants, and acrobat ants. 

Symptoms of Ant Bites

If an ant bites, it can cause redness, rash, and small pustules. If these pustules become infected, they can cause scarring. Fire ants bite to hold on to the victim, so it’s possible to act quickly and brush off an ant before it stings.

Most of the time ant bites are easy to treat, but red fire ant stings can sometimes cause severe reactions because of the venom these ants secrete. 

Here are some symptoms to watch for and make you seek immediate treatment:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains

How to Treat Ant Bites

Ant bites and stings will usually go away in a couple of days and there are some simple things you can do at home to get some relief from the itching and burning sensation.

  • Cold compress
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Antihistamine
  • Antibiotic ointment

How to Prevent Ant Bites

The best way to prevent a painful run-in with biting and stinging ants is to avoid where they live.

Fire ant colonies are typically below the surface, with a mound forming over the nest, as are carpenter ant and harvester ant nests. You can also find fire ant nests in dark, moist locations like rotten logs, under sidewalks, or walls of buildings. Fire ants can cause the most problems when located in yards, school grounds, and parks. 

You can wear bug repellent protective clothing when walking through areas with fire ants. If you suspect a fire ant close to where you live, you should consult a pest control expert. 

Do Ants Carry Diseases?

Despite being annoying when you find them on countertops and food containers, ants typically are not known to transfer diseases to humans but it is possible. This is mostly a concern in developing countries. 

Ants can carry diseases like staphylococcus and streptococcus so it’s always good to be aware when lots of ants are around. Ants can also carry food-borne diseases such as salmonella and E. Coli., as they are constantly on the search for food inside homes and buildings. It’s possible for them to carry microorganisms to human food sources. Hospitals are on alert for pharaoh ants, which can spread salmonella and staphylococcus, and they can contaminate medical equipment. 

Where are Ants Dangerous?

If you’ve had ants in your home, you know it can be tough to get rid of them. Fortunately, most ant species can’t harm us, but there are ants that can cause serious problems. In rare cases, ants can spread food-borne illnesses or bacteria.

Red fire ants are most well known for their painful sting, which can sometimes cause an allergic reaction. These ants inject venom into their victims, and for some people, large numbers of bites can cause anaphylaxis. Those who have been bitten more than once by fire ants experience more severe reactions the next time they are bitten. It’s important to seek treatment if you have reactions like dizziness, shortness of breath, and severe swelling.