There are many different types of fire ants, and they are found throughout the
southeastern and southwestern United States. The most common and aggressive kind is
the red imported fire ant, which is reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long (about half
the size of a pencil eraser).
Red imported fire ants live in colonies that first nest in the ground, and then
create a mound of dirt over the nest. These mounds can grow up to 18 inches high and
over 2 feet wide!
Red imported fire ants' nests can be found on lawns, in parks, on playgrounds,
in fields, and in pastures. Some red imported fire ants create nests in walls of buildings.
What a Sting Looks and Feels Like
A person who gets stung by a fire ant will feel a sharp pain and burning. Someone
who steps on a fire ant mound will get a lot of stings at once because the ants have
been disturbed where they all live together. Each sting will turn into an itchy white
blister over the next day.
What You Should Do
If you ever think that you have been stung by a fire ant, tell an adultimmediately. That's because the venom (poison) in the sting can cause
the area around it to swell up quite a bit, and a doctor may want to have a look to
make sure you are not having an allergic reaction.
The symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives
(red patches on the skin that sting and itch), nausea, dizziness, a tight feeling
in the throat, or trouble breathing. Someone who has these symptoms needs to get medical
attention right away.
But usually, you can follow these steps after a fire ant sting:
Wash the area with soap and water.
Apply a cold compress (like ice wrapped in a clean towel) to the area.
Check with the doctor if you have redness, swelling, or itching.
What a Doctor Will Do
The doctor may suggest that your mom or dad give you a medicine called an antihistamine
to control swelling and itching. If you have a more serious allergic reaction to a
fire ant sting, the doctor may give you a shot that fights the reaction. People
who know that they are allergic to fire ant stings also sometimes carry emergency
medicine that they can give to themselves to prevent a severe reaction from happening.
How to Avoid Getting Stung
The best way to avoid getting stung by fire ants is to keep your shoes on when
playing in areas that could have fire ant mounds. If you come across one, don't ever
poke at it or try to play with it.