Read below about fire ant bite, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your fire ant bite from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fire ant bite

Take a quiz

Fire Ant Bite Symptoms

Fire ants are commonly found in the Southern United States and are most likely to bother humans during the summer. Fire ants usually attack after their mound is disturbed but can also bite without being provoked. Many ants may attack at once, and each ant first attaches to the person by biting down and then delivers multiple stings. Typically, the sting causes an immediate burning sensation, followed by the development of a red and swollen area. After a few hours to a day, small bumps and blisters will develop. The stings will heal over the course of a few days to a week, but scarring can occur.

Associated fire ant bite symptoms include:

Fire Ant Bite Causes Overview

After a fire ant bite, discomfort or even rare life-threatening fire ant bite symptoms can be caused by a local reaction, systemic allergic reaction, or systemic side effects.

Local reaction:

  • The most typical cause of discomfort with a fire ant sting is a small local reaction, where the area of the sting becomes itchy, painful, and red along with the development of blisters.

Large local reaction:

  • Sometimes the local reaction spreads beyond the area of the stings, with extensive swelling and pain. For example, a sting on the wrist can lead to swelling of the entire arm.

Systemic allergic reaction:

  • A much less common cause of complications from fire ant stings is a systemic allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis. In this condition, the immune system overreacts due to an allergy to the fire ant venom.

Systemic side effects:

  • In rare cases, fire ant stings can cause severe complications such as kidney damage.

2 Potential Fire Ant Bite Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Uncomplicated Fire Ant Sting

    A vast majority of fire ant stings are not dangerous and do not require special treatment or medication.

    Symptoms should resolve within 1 week.

    Top Symptoms:
    itchy rash, fire ant bite, small fire ant bite, skin changes from a bug bite, painful rash
    Symptoms that always occur with uncomplicated fire ant sting:
    fire ant bite
    Symptoms that never occur with uncomplicated fire ant sting:
    shortness of breath, choking, episodes of face turning red, fever, large fire ant bite

    Fire Ant Bite Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fire ant bite.

    Take a quiz
  2. 2.Fire Ant Sting Requiring Medical Attention

    17-56% of people develop large areas of inflammation from a fire ant sting. This area can be very itchy and painful.

    Typically persists for 24-72 hours

    Top Symptoms:
    fire ant bite
    Symptoms that always occur with fire ant sting requiring medical attention:
    fire ant bite, large fire ant bite
    In-person visit

Fire Ant Bite Treatments and Relief

Most of the time, fire ant stings can be taken care of at home and will resolve with minimal treatment. However, anaphylaxis in response to the stings can be fatal and requires immediate treatment.

Seek emergency treatment after a fire ant bite if:

  • You have ever had anaphylaxis after a fire ant bite in the past.
  • You are having difficulty breathing, facial swelling, dizziness, or intense nausea and abdominal pain.
  • A couple of days have passed since the bite and you notice spreading redness along with fevers and chills. These symptoms may indicate that an infection has developed.

Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You are unable to control the itching and pain with over-the-counter medications.
  • You have swelling extending beyond the immediate area of the stings.
  • You still have pain and itching a week or more after getting stung.

Your medical provider may prescribe one or more of the following fire ant bite treatments depending on how your body reacts to fire ant stings:

  • An oral steroid to reduce swelling.
  • Epinephrine that you can keep with you (Epi-Pen) and use to prevent a severe allergic reaction if you are stung again.
  • Immunotherapy, where you are exposed to small amounts of fire ant venom in order to build up a tolerance so that anaphylaxis will not occur if you are stung again.

Some home treatments may help with fire ant stings.

  • If you can see a stinger embedded in the skin, remove it by scraping (such as with a credit card). Avoid pinching the stinger, which can release more venom.
  • Pull off any fire ants that are still attached.
  • Avoid itching the bite. An oral antihistamine, steroid cream, or antihistamine cream can help decrease itchiness.
  • Applying ice can help reduce swelling.
  • In order to prevent infection, keep the area clean and avoid popping the blisters.
  • Over-the-counter medications like Tylenol, or NSAIDS such as ibuprofen, can help with pain.

FAQs About Fire Ant Bite

Here are some frequently asked questions about fire ant bite.

Can you pop a fire ant bite?

Fire ant stings characteristically develop small blisters. It is best to avoid popping the blisters and instead let them heal on their own. Disrupting the blisters makes the skin more vulnerable to infection. If blisters do pop, clean the area with soap and water to help prevent infection.

What does a fire ant bite feel like?

First there is a burning sensation, which lasts for a few minutes. Later on, the area becomes extremely itchy and painful. If there is a large local reaction, where the reaction is not restricted to the immediate area around the stings, there may be extensive swelling, redness, and warmth.

Are fire ant bites deadly?

Fire ant bites typically are not deadly and require minimal treatment. About 1 percent of people stung by fire ants have an allergy to the venom that will lead to a systemic immune system overreaction (anaphylaxis). Typically there is a history of fire ant stings in the past, which sensitized the immune system to the venom. Anaphylaxis can be deadly without quick treatment.

Do fire ant bites swell?

Yes, swelling typically develops quickly at the site of the fire ant sting. Usually the swelling goes down within an hour. However, sometimes the swelling persists and continues to increase over a couple of days. Medical treatment may be needed to help the swelling resolve.

How long does it take for a fire ant bite to go away?

A fire ant sting goes through a few characteristic stages. First there is a brief burning sensation, followed by the development of a red swollen area. Typically the swelling resolves over the next hour, but within a day a small blister appears. The blister heals over the next few days to a week. In some cases there is a larger reaction with persistent swelling, which may take longer to resolve.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Fire Ant Bite

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Do you have a rash?
  • Q.How large is the redness surrounding the bite?
  • Q.Do you suspect that you are sick because of something you ate?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our fire ant bite symptom checker to find out more.

Take a quiz

Fire Ant Bite Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced fire ant bite have also experienced:

    • 13% Nausea
    • 8% Swollen Ankle
    • 5% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
  • People who have experienced fire ant bite were most often matched with:

    • 15% Uncomplicated Fire Ant Sting
    • 3% Fire Ant Sting Requiring Medical Attention
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fire ant bite

Take a quiz