BIT OF ANTS »How to identify them, avoid them and what to do if they occur


Colored ants are red insects that bite and inoculate a harmful substance, called poison, inside the skin.

This article is informational only. DO NOT use it to treat or handle a real exposure to an ant sting fire. If you or someone with whom you are experiencing an exposure, call the local emergency number (911 in the United States), or you can contact the local toxicology center directly by calling the free national helpline number Poison Help (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Where is it?

Red ants or red ants build mud nests that form mounds, usually in open grasslands. These ants are found in the southern United States and in other areas that do not freeze in winter.

Symptoms of fire ant bites may include:

  • Swelling, redness, itching and pain around the site of the sting
  • Purulent ampoules that last 3 to 8 days
  • Possible scab formation in the area of ​​the sting that lasts 3 to 10 days

Those allergic to the poison of colored ants can also present:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Fast heart rate
  • Throat swelling

Home care

Home treatment depends on the location and reaction to the sting.

Wash the exposed area with plenty of water and soap. DO NOT use alcohol to wash the area. Wash your eyes with plenty of water if any toxins fell.

In case of slight bites, apply ice (wrapped in a clean cloth) in the place of the bite with intervals of 10 minutes, repeating the process. If the person has circulatory problems, reduce the time of application of ice to avoid possible damage to the skin.

Some people are allergic to the poison of red or red ants. If the reaction is severe, seek immediate medical help and call the local emergency number (such as 911 in the United States) or the Poison Control Center.

Those who have an allergy to insect bites or bites should wear emergency equipment for bee stings and be familiar with how to use it in case of an emergency. This team needs a recipe.

Center for Toxicology

The local toxicology center can be contacted by calling the national toll-free numberPoison Help (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. Who will give you additional instructions.

It's about a free and confidential service. All local toxicology centers in the United States use this number. You should call if you have any concerns about poisonings or how to prevent them. It does not necessarily have to be an emergency, you can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to expect in the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the vital signs of the person, including temperature, pulse, respiratory rate and blood pressure. The wound will be treated in the appropriate manner.

The person can receive:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Respiratory support, including oxygen (severe allergic reactions may require the placement of a tube through the mouth to the throat and a respirator)
  • ECG (electrocardiogram, or cardiac tracing)
  • IV fluids (through a vein)
  • Medications to treat symptoms

Expectations (prognostic)

The sooner the appropriate treatment begins, the better the person's response (clinical outcome). People who are not allergic to red ants should be completely fine within a few hours or days. Individuals with severe allergic reactions may need hospitalization.

  • Insect bites on the leg


Nogar JN, Clark RF. Arthropod bites and stings. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders, 2013: chap 140.

Otten EJ. Venomous animal injuries. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2018: chap 55.

Last revision 7/9/2017

English version reviewed by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

Translation and localization by: DrTango, Inc.

How to know if it is an ant bite?

As you know, there are different species of ants, all of them with small jaws that they can use to bite you. However, the ant bite that most tends to appear is that caused by the Fire ants, also called red ants. These little ones are attached to the skin with the help of their jaws and inject a poison that causes inflammation and redness of the skin, in addition to a intense itching

Now, to know if it is a picket of these ants, It is important to know what this type of injury looks like. Normally, once the plague has attacked, an immediate form is formed. red rash on the skin, followed by a blister, whose liquid becomes cloudy, which produces inflammation, burning or itching

Anyway, knowing if you have been stung by a fire ant is not really that difficult, since, in addition to the signs described above, these bugs tend to stay adhered to the skin with his jaws, and it is you who must take the effort to remove them.

How to avoid an ant bite?

Given that the ant bite it can cause some discomfort, especially if it is those red ants, it is essential to take certain safety measures that serve to prevent the attack of these pests.

  • Avoid stepping on ant colonies. If there is one in your garden, contact a pest control expert to eliminate it.
  • Protect yourself before going outdoors. If you go to the field or somewhere where these bugs can be, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and boots to prevent them from climbing and giving you a sting.
  • Spray insect repellent on your clothes. This will help keep ants away.

What to do if you have an ant bite?

If you have turned out to be a victim of a ant bite, it is important that you take action at the moment, especially if it's the aforementioned fire ants, so you can treat wounds and reduce discomfort that these can cause you.

Thus, we recommend you the next:

  • If possible, keep the affected area elevated to help reduce inflammation
  • Wash the her> Yes despite your efforts to avoid the ant bite, you turned out to be a victim of these little ones, there are some home remedies They can be used to treat the problem.

  • Alcohol and meat tenderizer: After removing the ants from your skin, disinfect the bites with alcohol, elevate the affected area and sprinkle some meat tenderizer on the wound, in this way You can reduce the effects of the picket.
  • Hand sanitizer: This remedy is quite practical and accessible. If you have an ant sting, rub some hand sanitizer over the wound, so you will relieve burning and itching. It is advisable to take an antihistamine in a complementary way.
  • Sodium bicarbonate: a fairly simple and effective alternative to treat the ant bite It is the baking soda. To use it, mix a little baking soda with enough water to form a paste, and apply it on the affected area. You can do the same with baking soda and a few drops of vinegar. This will help Reduce itching and redness.
  • Ice: easy but very useful, apply some ice or a cloth dampened with cold water can be used to relieve symptoms of ant picket. Try to apply it every 10 minutes, taking a short break between each application. Do not forget that ice cannot be placed directly on the skin, as it could cause burns. Therefore, try to apply it wrapped in a cloth and not let it act for too long.
  • Ammonia: Immediately after being stung, rinse the wound with ammonia. In case you don't know, many of the window cleaning products have ammonia among their components, so if you don't have ammonia itself, you can try one of them.

When to go to the doctor in front of an ant bite?

As we have said, many times the ant bite It is harmless and it is enough to administer certain care at home. However, they may sometimes occur certain complications or adverse reactions, as tends to happen with the famous fire ant sting, which can put the patient's health at risk, if he is allergic to it.

In that sense, if the affected person begins to experience severe symptoms as respiratory distress or tight feeling in the chest and throat, is mandatory Seek immediate medical assistance.

Emergency (Urgent Care) or Urgent Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and has concerns if it is an emergency that puts your child's life at risk, call 911. Not sure what constitutes immediate or urgent care when your child is sick or injured? When you can't wait, know where to take your children.


  • Red ant sting
  • Red ants are more common in the southern United States.

symptomLocal skin reactions to bites

  • Common symptoms are pain, stinging, swelling and redness at the site of the sting.
  • Pain. The pain and stinging in the sting usually last 10 minutes and its intensity is much less than the pain of a bee.
  • Itching Itching comes after pain, and it can last for several weeks.
  • Uticaria. In 100% of cases, within 30 minutes a rash appears as hives at the site of the bite. This rash has the appearance of a red spot with the white center raised.
  • Pustules. In 96% of cases, grains with yellow liquid (pustules) appear within 24 hours at the site of the bite. These pustules are practically a confirmation of the diagnosis of red ant bites. They cause a lot of itching, and usually open after 3 days. Then they dry, but sometimes they can last up to a week.
  • Swelling. Normal swelling due to poison may continue to increase for 24 hours after the bite. Bites in the upper part of the face can cause a lot of swelling around the eye. This is not dangerous.
  • Severe or extreme swelling. In some cases, red ant bites can cause a lot of swelling. Bites in the hands and feet can cause swelling throughout the entire wrist or ankle. Swelling may interfere with the function of these joints and require steroids. This does not imply an increased risk of allergic reactions in future bites.
  • Redness. The bites can redden naturally. This does not mean that they are infected. Bite infections are very rare.


  • Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that involves danger of death.
  • The main symptoms are hives and difficulty breathing and swallowing. The reaction begins within 2 hours after the bite.
  • This type of severe reaction occurs in 1 to 2% of children after a red ant sting.
  • UTICARIA. After a red ant sting, some children have extensive hives or swelling of the face. On their own, hives and swelling of the face can often be treated at home. But sometimes, these symptoms can cause anaphylaxis. Call your doctor now to help you decide.

CauseRed ant sting

  • The sting injects poison through the sting of the ant.
  • The cause of the symptoms is the venom of the bites.
  • The red ant clings to the skin with its jaws and rotates the body to make several bites with the back stinger.
  • The red ant can leave a semicircular mark of several bites.

General information about red ants

  • In infested areas, these ants cause much more bites than bees and wasps.
  • More than 50% of people living in areas infested with red ants suffer bites from these ants each year.
  • Red ants are found throughout the southern United States, from Florida to Texas. More recently they have also appeared in California, New Mexico and Arizona.
  • Red ant colonies live in small mounds of land about 6 inches tall.
  • When there is a disturbance in the mound, hundreds of red ants leave to attack.
  • Its sting causes an immediate stinging or burning sensation, so they are also known as red fire ants.

Prevention of red ant bites

  • The only way to prevent red ant bites is to avoid contact with them.
  • Teach your children to identify colonies (mounds) of red ants and keep their distance.
  • Insect repellents (including those containing DEET) are not effective in preventing red ant bites.
  • Wear socks, since red ants cannot sting through them.

What is a red ant?

There are many types of red ants and they are found throughout the southeast and southwest of the United States. The imported red ant is the most common and aggressive class. This ant is reddish brown and measures approximately 1/8 inch (3mm.) Long (almost half the size of a pencil eraser).

Imported red ants live in colonies, first they make a n> height and more than 2 feet (60 cm.) Wide!

The nests of imported red ants can be found in grass, parks, playgrounds and the countryside. Some imported red ants nest in the walls of buildings.

What does it look like and what sensation does the bite of a red ant produce

When a red ant bites a person, he will feel acute pain and burning. If a person steps on a mound of red ants, they will receive several bites at once, as they have been disturbed where they live. The next day, each bite will become a blister that will itch.

What should you do

If you ever think that a red ant has bitten you, immediately notify an adult. The venom of colored ant bites can cause a slight swelling in the area of ​​the bite, and the doctor may want to check it out to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction.

Sometimes, an allergic reaction similar to that caused by a bee sting can occur, that is, with respiratory problems or tightness in the chest or throat. If these symptoms appear, the person requires immediate medical assistance.

But, in most cases, you can follow the following steps after receiving the bite of a red ant:

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply some ice to the area.
  • Check with your doctor if you have redness, swelling or itching.

What will the doctor do

If your doctor determines that you have an allergic reaction to the bite of a red ant, he will prescribe a medication, called an "antihistamine" to control inflammation and relieve itching. If you have a severe allergic reaction to bites of colored ants, the doctor may give you an injection to fight the reaction. People who know they are allergic to red ants often carry emergency medications to avoid having a serious reaction.

Preliminary Measures

Fire ant allergy check. The first thing you have to do is check if you are allergic or not to the ant bite. If it is, it would have a tightness in the chest, nausea or diarrhea as a result of a tingling allergy reaction. Experts from the University of North Carolina Wilmington Abrons Student Health Center recommend calling attention if it develops: "rash and itching on the whole body, difficulty breathing (wheezing, noise when breathing) or it becomes shock (pale, sweaty, dazed, confused, etc.)". In such circumstances, you should not treat these bites on your own and you should immediately contact a doctor for a detailed examination and treatment, however, if you are not allergic to these bites, then you can treat the problem on your own, since The situation will not be so critical.

Get away from infested sites and eliminate ants. In most cases, fire ants bite you when you accidentally touch their mound, either standing or sitting on it. The first thing you have to do is get away from the site and remove the ants from your skin. If possible, take off your shirt to clean your body of all the fire ants that might have dragged through its sleeves.

How to treat fire ant bites

Suppose you have been bitten. What should be your reaction?

1. Therefore, it is necessary to perform some important steps:

Wash the affected part of the skin with soap and water or with a remedy containing alcohol. Not only does it help remove all kinds of dirt particles from the skin that could have caused a greater infection, but it also calms fire ant bites by neutralizing acid bites. This helps control the swelling too.

2. Control swelling and itching

The first thing you would do is control the fire ant bites by swelling by lifting the attacked body part above your chest level. For example, if it bites you in the hand or wrist, try to lift it so that the blood flow to this part of the body is minimized and the swelling process slows down.

Do not scratch the bites! If the microbes get into wounds, this can result in a secondary infection. The infection can be controlled immediately by placing an ice bar over the infected area. This helps control intense itching and pain. If the itching is horrible, use products such as StingEze Dauber for this low-cost remedy is recommended by scientists because it helps eliminate pain and itching and reduces infection. Or you can apply Benadryl Itch Relief Spray for a: it is a multipurpose resource with a 4.5 star rating on

OR You can also try traditional methods, a mixture of baking soda and water may also work, some bloggers recommend rinsing the bite area with a substance containing ammonium, we have not found any confirmation of this from doctors.

3. Take antihistamine medications if you need

Antihistamine pills help fight allergic reactions and are an excellent fire ant that kills the remedy. Take these medications (as recommended by the doctor) before it becomes too swollen. This will help control itching, pain and inflammation in the early stages.

You can spray insect repellent that contains DEET on your shoes and lower leg of your pants. This can help deter fire ants from fodder from rising to the legs, It is good advice from scientists.

Read our review of the best outdoor and indoor fire ants killers - "7 best fire ants killers: a review of traps, gels and insecticides."