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Definition Return to top
Fire ants are red-colored insects that sting and deliver a harmful substance, called venom, into your skin.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Poisonous Ingredient Return to top
Fire ant venom contains a chemical called piperidine.
Where Found Return to top
Fire ants build dirt nests that form mounds, usually in open grass settings. They are typically found in the southern United States and other areas that do not freeze in winter.
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms may include:
Those allergic to fire ant venom may also have
Home Care Return to top
Home treatment depends on your reaction to the sting.
Some people are allergic to fire ant venom. If the reaction is severe, seek immediate medical help. Those who have an allergy to insect bites or stings should carry a bee sting kit (which requires a prescription) and become familiar with how to use it in the event of an emergency.
For mild stings, place ice (wrapped in a washcloth or other suitable covering) on the bite area for 10 minutes and then off for 10 minutes. Repeat this process. If the patient has circulatory problems, decrease the time to prevent possible damage to the skin.
Before Calling Emergency Return to top
Determine the following information:
Poison Control Return to top
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room Return to top
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.
The patient may receive:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The sooner appropriate treatment is started, the better the outcome. Patients not allergic to fire ants should be completely fine in a few hours to a few days.
References Return to top
Auerbach PS. Wilderness Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2001.
Marx J. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2006.Update Date: 2/17/2009 Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Stephen C. Acosta, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (10/24/2007).