As the mother of two adventuresome toddlers and the wife of a lawn-mowing, trail hiking husband, I knew that we were bound to have a run in with fire ants now that we live here in the “mid-south”. I just never thought that I would be the one to get chewed on.
Before we even moved to Little Rock, I visited the Master Gardeners booth at the Rivermarket to find out about native plants. When the gentleman I was talking to about plants learned that we were new to the area, he stopped mid-shpiel and said, “Here. You need this.” He handed me a piece of paper that talked about Fire Ants, what they looked like, and how to keep them out of your yard/garden. He warned me that fire ants had a very painful bite and to watch out for their large ant hills in open grassy areas. (I’ve since learned that fire ants will also inhabit tree trunks, brush piles, and building foundations.) This was only the first of many warnings we received from people who wanted to make sure we, as newbies, were aware of the fire ants. However, no one ever said how to treat a fire ant bite.
So, when I walked through a fire ant hill at a Stroller Strides class two weeks ago, I was bitten five times before I could remove my shoe, sock, and all offended insects. There were just 5 small welts on my ankle, so as someone who gets bitten by bugs all the time, I wasn’t too concerned. Some people are highly allergic to fire ant bites, so I was relieved to know that I am not.
The next day when I was shaving my legs, I shaved the top right off one of the bites. Later on, I noticed that three more of them looked like they were infected. They looked like pimples, slightly raised with white puss. When Craig got home from work, he agreed that they looked infected and pinched the puss out of them. A couple days later I noticed that my ankle was visibly swollen in the area of the bites. A week later, I was still swollen, and the bites looked worse than ever, so i decided to do some internet research.
As it turns out, the worst thing you can do with a fire ant bite is to pinch the puss out of it! When fire ants bite, they rip away chunks of flesh while also injecting poison. If you pinch (or shave off) the pustule, you actually force the poison deeper into the skin, increasing the already likely chances of infection. Suggested treatment is to put peroxide or rubbing alcohol on the bites, followed by an anti-itch cream. Now you know.
So, two and a half weeks later, my fire ant bites are still there. They’re pretty ugly, still a little swollen, and are probably going to leave a scar. Next time I get bitten by a “new” bug, I’ll be researching treatment immediately!