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Itch (Itching or Pruritus)
Title: Itch (Itching or Pruritus)
Category: Diseases and Conditions
Created: 1/8/2001 12:00:00 AM
Last Editorial Review: 5/11/2017 12:00:00 AM

Itching
Title: Itching
Category: Symptoms and Signs
Created: 2/26/2004 12:00:00 AM
Last Editorial Review: 5/4/2017 12:00:00 AM



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Take the Fire out of Fire Ant Bites

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Fire Ants come in various sizes from about one sixteenth of an inch to a fifth of an inch. These little creatures have a brown head and a darker brown on the body.

Fire ants bites pierce the skin. They can cut and chew with their mandibles but they need to suck up liquids to feed. Fire ants have two stomachs, one for their own digestion and one to share food with the colony. They often throw up the food so that others in the colony can also feed off of it.

Fire ant bites burn and sting. The ants inject venom into your skin with their stinger, the burning is similar to feeling fire (thus the name). Shortly after fire ant bites occur, the skin will raise in welts, sometimes these welts are filed with fluid. They are very itchy and it is important not to scratch because it can cause infection and scarring.

These insects are so small that you would not see them crawling on your skin or hiding under you clothing. It usually takes about ten seconds before you will feel fire ant bites. A single fire ant can bite over and over again even after their venom sac has depleted.

There are several ways to kill these creatures and protect yourself from fire ant bites. The first method is to circle the mound with a solution of one part lye to five gallons of water. After you have sealed off their escape route, douse the entire mound with the solution. Be very careful and wear gloves, lye is caustic.

You can douse the mound with boiling water but unfortunately the queen will still live on. The fire ants will come out and attack with a vengeance so be prepared. The queen still may not die; the others should die in about twenty four hours.

You can flood the mound with about five gallons hot soapy water but that does not always kill the queen.

Another method is to drench the mound by having a solution of insecticide trickle into it, but the solution has to reach the queen or it is rather useless. Do not use this method in the summer as the ants are buried too deeply in the ground to be reached; the spring or fall is a better time.

You can also purchase fire ant baits for home and garden. The insecticide they use (or a home solution of 15 percent boric acid and peanut better or sugar works) will be carried back to the colony where the ants, including the queen will feed, however this method of extermination takes months to work.

For first aid treatment:

Get away from the mound if you are outdoors.
Remove any clothing that can have the fire ants on them.
Wash the affected area with soap and water; rub with alcohol to remove the venom.
Use an ice pack to reduce pain and inflammation.
Apply a hydrocortisone topical ointment or cream such as calamine lotion or StingEze.
For ease of pain you may also try a bleach and water or baking soda and water, or meat tenderizer and water paste.
Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl will ease the itch and prevent infection.
Never scratch the pustules.
If anaphylaxis symptoms begin to occur - hives, swelling, chest pains, nausea, dizziness, shock or, even coma - the victim of fire ant bites must be immediately treated by a doctor or EMT team who can transport to a doctor.



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