Topic Overview

Fire ants are wingless insects that belong to the same family of insects as bees and wasps. Fire ants are found in the southeastern and south-central United States, especially along the Gulf Coast. They tend to attack and sting in great numbers.

A fire ant attaches itself to a person by biting with its jaws. Then, pivoting its head, it stings from its belly in a circular pattern at multiple sites. Symptoms of a fire ant sting may include:

  • A painful raised bump that becomes a pus-filled blister in 6 to 24 hours and lasts for up to 10 days.
  • Skin at the bite site that dies and leaves a scar or bump.
  • A severe life-threatening allergic reaction.
  • A toxic reaction when there have been 20 or more stings.
  • Redness and swelling extending beyond the sting site.
  • Serum sickness, a rare reaction to stings. Flu-like symptoms and hives begin 7 to 14 days after an insect sting.

Home treatment can help relieve pain and prevent infection. Severe reactions require emergency medical treatment.

Credits

Current as ofSeptember 23, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine