Imported fire ants are aggressive, will defensively attack anything that disturbs them, and can sting repeatedly. Symptoms of a fire ant sting include burning, itching and a white pustule that forms in a day or two. Although the stings are not usually life threatening, they are easily infected and may leave permanent scars. Some people become sensitive to fire ant stings and should seek the advice of an allergist. If a sting leads to chest pains, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling or slurred speech, the person should be taken to an emergency medical facility immediately. Some people may lapse into a coma from even one sting. Relatively few deaths from fire ant stings have been documented, compared to deaths from bee and wasp stings.
Tips for avoiding medical emergencies and for treating ant stings:
- Teach children and visitors about fire ants and their hazard.
- Wear protective clothing during outdoor activities. Wear shoes or boots and/or tuck pant legs into socks.
- Treat stings with an insect bite remedy containing benzocine or other ingredients that deaden pain and protect against infection.
- Control fire ants in areas used most frequently by people and pets.