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Getting Stung by Fire Ants

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Sarah C. Pilon
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Has anyone every been stung by a fire ant or multiple fire ants? I've read it feels like a burning sensation, but I've never been personally stung, so I don't know much about it. I've done a lot of internet research, but I was hoping for some first hand experiences.

I'm all for field research, but not for this topic.  lol
#1 - January 18, 2012, 07:09 PM

I've lived in Florida all my life and have been stung by fire ants a few times. Fire ants are strange creatures. They both bite and sting. Only the queens sting, but there can be as many as 200 or more queens in a mound. A person can sometimes get stung by one [irritating, unpleasant] but often fire ants will crawl onto a person in large numbers, then sting in mass, sending a chemical signal or something - one, then 7 or 8, then all of them. 25 or 30 of them will light you up. It's hot, electrical almost, and can send your heart racing. The effected area is feverish, swollen, itches, feels like it will burst out of the skin. Some people can go into shock from it, similar to a wasp sting reaction. 
#2 - January 18, 2012, 08:18 PM

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My oldest is allergic...very much so. Although her allergic reactions are actually diminishing with age.

Here is what happened the first time...

She rolled down a hill that was apparently full of fire ants. We didn't know it. One got on her somewhere, but didn't know it then.

She got on the slide, moved just the "wrong way" and BAM, felt it. She slid down, looked at me and said, "Mama, I don't feel very good".

She pointed to her neck and said, "Something bit me."

I saw a red dot... and lots of stuff around it. Within just a minute (not exaggerating here), she was covered in splotches and swelling up. I rushed her to car and to the doc. ON the way there, her face was swelling as well as her lips. She was covered almost from head to toe in splotches an swollen patches. ALL from one bite. We found the bite later and the doc showed us that the ant BIT her... then held on and STUNG her all around that spot. Yeah. MEAN little things!

She said it felt like fire and itched like crazy in the days that followed. I am sure it affects others in different ways.

They gave her allergy stuff and it took care of it. BUt she then had to be tested for venom allergens. That was the ONLY one she had a reaction to. And it was a bad one. We now have to keep a epi pen on hand... just in case.

Does that help?

#3 - January 18, 2012, 08:19 PM
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The bites burn like fire .. and they generally swell and pus up pretty quickly. The skin turns bright red. They also tend to swarm on you if you step on a mound. And you don't want one down your sock, in between your toe and your flip-flop thong, or down your gardening glove. You definitely know when you've been bit; it's an intense burning pain.

#4 - January 18, 2012, 08:36 PM
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Intense burning pain, something I hope to never, ever feel again! I got stung on both feet by several at once. Luckily not a whole swarm of them. The sites stayed a reddish purple for years (not kidding - it was like tiny scars on my feet). I cringe every time I hear about fire ants.

Donna, that is so scary about the fire ant biting and stinging your daughter like that! So happy to hear that she's ok and that her allergies are diminishing!!!
#5 - January 18, 2012, 09:07 PM
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As a child, I was swarmed twice by stepping on mounds when lived on Guam.  In both cases, I didn't even realize it had happened until they all started stinging at once. The second time was by far the worst.  I was about ten, and the ants covered my bare leg from my foot to my knee. You couldn't see my skin.  It burned and stung very badly, like prickles of fire on your skin.  I ran to a hose and washed the ants away.  My skin turned red and my ears started burning.  Everything felt hot.  My heart was racing and started to skip beats.  My entire body broke out in hives.  I was rushed to a hospital and told that I had an allergic reaction.  I was also told that I could be even more sensitive if I got swarmed a third time, and that I might now be allergic to other stinging insects (although a subsequent bee sting did not cause a reaction).  I remember a lot of Calamine lotion in the days after, but not much else. 
#6 - January 18, 2012, 10:52 PM
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Yep--it definitely burns.  Also, the area gets swollen and the bite/sting mark will fill with pus fairly quickly.  In my experience, the bite will do what spider bites sometimes do, where they itch to the point where it hurts, if that makes sense.

And, as someone above described, some people are HIGHLY allergic.

People often don't realize they are standing on a mound until the first one bites, and by then, I have seen people (sadly mostly kids--I'm a teacher) with their shoes literally COVERED with ants.  Then it's a screaming panic attack to try to get them all off.

Fire ants suck.
#7 - January 19, 2012, 03:07 PM
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Wow, ouch. Thanks everyone, that's really helpful. Just hearing about your experiences makes me ache.

 :grouphug2
#8 - January 19, 2012, 03:09 PM

Yes, I agree with everyone else--INTENSE burning. I stepped in a nest (hill?) wearing sandals a few summers ago and when I felt the burning, I began swatting them with my hand and ended up getting several 'stings' on my hand as well. I had major swelling and redness on my foot and hand and even up my arm to a point. I got worried when the pain spread up to my arm pit, but I waited it out without going to the doctor and it eventually cleared up.

All I can say is--your poor character!
#9 - January 19, 2012, 04:42 PM
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The sites stayed a reddish purple for years (not kidding - it was like tiny scars on my feet).

How long until the blisters completely went away? Did it leave marks for everyone else, like it did for Ani Louise? (Sorry to hear that Ani Louise, I never imagined the marks would stay past a few weeks!)
#10 - January 19, 2012, 05:02 PM

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My experience (having grown up in Virginia and Mississippi) has been much like Talia's. I've stepped in mounds and been completely unaware that fireants were swarming up my pants leg until the bites began. It's a truly shocking and horrifying experience. Mostly though, I grew up getting the occasional bite here and there. They swell as everyone has said and burn for a while and then they begin to itch. Uuuuuugh.

*cowers from the memories*
#11 - January 19, 2012, 05:16 PM

I can't remember exactly how long for the blisters and swelling to go away, but it seems like it was at least a ten days--maybe two weeks. Mine did not leave any permanent marks, thank goodness. I would have looked like I had foot and hand measles!

And, yes, Natalie, I forgot about the itching. Ugh.
#12 - January 19, 2012, 07:05 PM
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I have been lucky and haven't had huge amounts of bites. I tend to get them around my toes and in between my fingers ... mostly from gardening. It's hard to find gardening gloves with tight wrist bands ... but if your gloves are loose, the ants will crawl down inside. There are enough around here, that you don't have to really touch or get into a mound, you can just cross paths with them by being outside. The swelling and itching and pus last for a week or so. It can be uncomfortable if they are around your toes .. it can be hard to wear socks/shoes.
#13 - January 19, 2012, 09:48 PM
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One of my experiences with fire ants was kinda gross and funny, so it might be useful.

I felt two or three bites between my 3rd and 4th toes while sitting at an outdoor cafe--on pavement, not even on grass. (No fair! I wasn't even in the ant's territory!) The site burned and itched furiously.

The next day, I had a business conference that involved a lot of walking. I wore socks and leather clogs, and had to try to ignore the burn. But I was aware that a blister was forming. When I finally took my shoe and sock off, the blister between and on top of my toes was like a dark rose-colored water balloon with the volume of a jumbo cherry tomato. (The ER hotline warned me not to break it, and told me to come in if I developed a fever.)

No fever, and the burn and itch mostly subsided. But for at least four days I could only wear flip-flops, and try to keep my grotesque foot out of sight. The "balloon" shrank a little, and finally burst on its own--another truly gross experience.   :ahh
#14 - January 20, 2012, 04:32 AM

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How long until the blisters completely went away? Did it leave marks for everyone else, like it did for Ani Louise? (Sorry to hear that Ani Louise, I never imagined the marks would stay past a few weeks!)

No fire ants, thank goodness, but last March I was stung by coral (did y'all know coral is venomous?! WTH, right?!), and the scars are only *just now* starting to fade. The wounds weren't serious, just mild abrasions from the coral itself + the venom, and healed quickly... but the scars have really lingered. (They lasted longer than the scars I had from abdominal surgery!!)
#15 - January 20, 2012, 02:22 PM

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I stepped on a fire ant mound when I was a little kid. I don't remember what it felt like at first, but I do vividly remember sitting with my feet in a bucket of ice once I was rushed home. (And having to take some sort of medicine - my guess is that it was Benadryl or something like that.)
#16 - January 20, 2012, 02:48 PM

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After reading this thread, I truly hope I never have a run in with fire ants. It sounds so incredibly uncomfortable and painful. Thanks for all the stories. It was really helpful!

No fire ants, thank goodness, but last March I was stung by coral (did y'all know coral is venomous?! WTH, right?!), and the scars are only *just now* starting to fade. The wounds weren't serious, just mild abrasions from the coral itself + the venom, and healed quickly... but the scars have really lingered. (They lasted longer than the scars I had from abdominal surgery!!)

Omg coral is venomous!? Definitely WTH!  :confused2
#17 - January 20, 2012, 03:09 PM

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How long until the blisters completely went away? Did it leave marks for everyone else, like it did for Ani Louise? (Sorry to hear that Ani Louise, I never imagined the marks would stay past a few weeks!)

It took about a week for the blisters to completely go away. And only after the 3rd day or so were we able to see the bite/sting area clearly. It was ugly.
#18 - January 20, 2012, 08:53 PM
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I hate fire ants!  A friend of mine shared a remedy that really works.....don't know why....but here goes.  When you realize that you are stung, take a fresh onion piece and rub the area until the onion falls apart.  Blisters will not pop up, and almost no swelling.  It supposedly works also on red wasp stings.
#19 - January 21, 2012, 04:24 PM

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In Texas, fire ants build mounds as big as condos.  If you step on a mound, the consequences are unforgiving.  Every response I've read so far about the pain has been on point.  But, one thing that has not been mentioned is how people lose their mind and all sense of dignity once they realize they're under attack.  I've personally witnessed men and women stripping out of pants, socks and shoes, standing outside in their undies, swiping at their legs and stomping around like it's some primitive ritual dance.  And in Texas, during the summer months, we know what's happening to those poor individuals and all it does is give us a moment to thank God it wasn't us.
#20 - January 21, 2012, 06:17 PM
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I lived in south GA and most of the time you could avoid fire ants most of the time because of their large mounds.  Only had a couple of bites, it was the one place I never went barefoot and I am totally a barefoot person. (I was an adult, probably a lot different for a kid running around) 

Deer flies are just a tad bit better in the burning department, but you cannot avoid them!  My friend and I covered ourselves head to toe, or so we thought to go into the Okefenokee Swamp, but we forgot socks, talk about red itchy blisters from deer flies.

Back to fire ants, they are supposedly marching northward.  Watch out for those little devils!
#21 - January 22, 2012, 07:38 PM
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How long until the blisters completely went away? Did it leave marks for everyone else, like it did for Ani Louise? (Sorry to hear that Ani Louise, I never imagined the marks would stay past a few weeks!)

Reading everyone's experiences makes me relive mine!  Aaaack!  The third time I got bitten by fire ants, I decided to follow my DH's advice (note: he does NOT have an MD, but, he was not looking forward to the drama to come), and instead of "leaving the pustules alone" and only using Benadryl, I broke the "pustules" (which, actually are not pustules per se, but dead skin that's turned white -- there's nothing inside) and applied water as hot as I could stand it with a washcloth and took Benadryl.  Oh, and pinot grigio.  Amazing.  Instead of being in agony and waking every two hours all night for two solid weeks (yes, this is not fun) and not being able to have even a sheet on my foot, I slept all night, every night.  Of course, because it felt sooooo much better to put the hot, hot water on them, I went the whole nine yards and put the "instant hot" on them, which promptly gave me third degree burns.  But -- you know what?  It felt waaay better than the first two times I'd gotten bitten.  Now I keep a small bottle of Windex with me when I'm in fire ant territory, ready to spray.  Apparently, they don't like ammonia.  I still have scars from my first two attacks over the last two years, and, of course, from the burns from the last one.  I feel really, really bad for your character!  :(
#22 - January 30, 2012, 02:45 PM
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Thanks, everyone. This is exactly what I needed to know.


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#23 - January 30, 2012, 04:55 PM

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