During the warm summer months, we want our kids to play outside and enjoy the weather but with summer comes Fire Ants; at least for those in the South. These ants carry a powerful sting and can quickly damper any summer fun. So, before beginning the activities you have planned for your family, take some time to learn about these ants, how to avoid them, and what to do if your child gets stung.
What are Fire Ants
Fire ants are an invasive species that found their way to the Southern United States from South America. Since they were first introduced, they have spread like wildfire through the South and Southeastern portion of the US. They thrive in warm climates making them more active during the summer months.
Fire ants, like other ant species, create intricate nests in the ground. These nests can be large with pathways extending up to 3 feet from the center. Although it can take months to build, these mounds can be up to 2 feet across and 18 inches high. Once a mound has been created, they are easy to identify but even without a mound, fire ants can be present.
· Bites and Stings
Fire ants don’t hold back; they can both bite and sting. They are known for a fiery burn which is from their stings and will bite with mandibles if provoked. These ants are very territorial and will aggressively defend their nest. This can be recipe for disaster if you unintentionally disturb them. With over 200,000 ants per hive, you can quickly be covered with a hundred small ants stinging you repeatedly.
While this sounds horrible and you may never want you or your children to step outside ever again; there are things that you can do to help keep you and your family safe.
Being careful is the best way to prevent ever being bitten by fire ants. With a few added precautions you can safely enjoy your summer.
· Wear Insect Repellant
Insect repellant that contains DEET will help to repel any fire ants that you happen to walk past in the yard. So, spray shoes and legs before you go outside. This will not prevent angry fire ants from attacking though so you still need to avoid their nests.
· Avoid Overgrown Grass
Fire ant mounds get large and are easily visible on maintained yards, but if grass grows too high, mounds can be hidden from sight. These areas may be better to avoid until the weather cools down and fire ants are less active.
· Teach your Children
Teaching your children what a fire ant mound looks like and that they need to leave it alone can keep curious children from disturbing a nest. If you find a nest at your house the best option is to leave it alone until you can have professionals take care of it for you.
· Hire a Professional
To get rid of fire ants in your yard it is best to contact a professional to get rid of them for you. Professionals have the right safety equipment, pesticides, and experience to handle these ants properly. They will also make sure that you don’t have any other mounds developing in your yard that you haven’t discovered yet.
What To Do If Your Child Is Stung
Unfortunately, prevention and caution are not always enough to prevent encountering fire ants. If your child is stung by fire ants follow these steps.
· Remove Fire Ants
The first thing to do is to remove your child from the area and then work to remove ants from their body. Removing clothing and brush ants from their skin so they fall off. Don’t hit at them as this makes them more likely to bite and hold on.
Once the ants have been removed evaluate what your next step should be.
|Call 911||Seek Medical Attention||Monitor For:|
|Past allergic reaction to fire ants.||Stung in the mouth or eyes.||Severe pain that lasts more than 5-10 minutes.|
|Trouble breathing or slurred speech.||More than 5 stings per 10lb of weight.||Redness lasting over 3 days and swelling that lasts over 7.|
|Child passed out or is physically weak.||Swelling in large areas or over joints.||Swelling that continues to grow for more than 24 hours from time of sting.|
|You think your child is in need of emergency care.||You think your child needs to be seen but it isn’t life threatening.||Scabs getting infected.|
At Home Care For Stings
Most of the time stings from fire ants are something you can monitor from home and will not require a trip to the doctor or worse the hospital. At home you will need to address both pain from swelling and itching as the stings heal.
· Pain Medicine
Give your child pain medicine that has been approved by their doctor for use. Tylenol or Ibuprofen are good for helping reduce pain and swelling and will help make your child more comfortable.
· Itch Relief
As fire ant stings heal, they begin to get itchy. So, using a steroid cream intended for use on bug bites will help reduce your child’s urge to scratch. If topical creams are not working, Benadryl can be a good option to help with an allergic reaction.
Fire ants are an unfortunate truth for those living in the South, but with the right precautions in place, and treatment if needed; you and your family can still enjoy the summer fun.