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Summer brings out the fire ants in Houston.  Fire ants can pose a dangerous threat to those with allergy to fire ant stings. Reactions can range from local swelling to a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Large local reactions are allergic reactions where the area around the sting becomes red, swollen, and often painful within 6-24 hours after the sting.  These reactions only involve the area around the sting and not other parts of the body.  Although this reaction usually subsides on its own, severe cases can lead to cutting off of the blood supply and require prompt evaluation by a physician.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction to a fire ant sting.  Symptoms may include hives, total body itching and/or redness, swelling in areas of the body away from the sting site, coughing, wheezing, throat closure, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, or a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.  These type of reactions require immediate medical evaluation by an emergency room physician.  Injectable epinephrine is typically prescribed for anaphylaxis.

Here are some helpful tips to help minimize potential fire ant stings:

1. Do not walk outside barefooted or in open-toed shoes.  Always wear shoes and   socks.

2. Wear long pants whenever possible.

3. Wear gloves and sleeves whenever gardening outdoors.

4. Avoid sitting or lying down in grass as it is often difficult to see fire ants moving through and under grass.

5. The yard should be thoroughly and regularly inspected for fire ants and mounds should be treated to prevent visible fire ants in the yard.  This is best done by a professional but regular surveillance by a non-allergic family member is also suggested.

A referral to an allergist is recommended for anaphylaxis to fire ant stings for evaluation and to learn about treatment options.  Allergy shots can minimize the chance of future reactions to fire ant stings and can provide a cure for fire ant anaphylaxis in a majority of cases.





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This site was last updated 04/25/13