How to Treat Fire Ant Bites -- Treatment Tips and Home Remedies

Updated on November 11, 2016

Fire Ant Bite Treatments and Home Remedies

Did you get stung or bitten by fire ants? Fire ant bites are itchy and painful due to the fact that they're a bite and a sting in one. The ant removes a chunk of skin with his mandibles, and the ant stings with a venom.

Fire ants are found throughout the southern United States and South America. In fact, they're a non-native species to the U.S. It's believed that they were brought to the United States aboard cargo ships traveling from South America to Mobile, Alabama, in the 1930s.

There are more than 220 species of fire ants. They're also called tropical fire ants, red ants and ginger ants. In the U.S., they're often referred to as Red Imported Fire Ants or "RIFA."

This article will explore home remedies for fire ant bites, treatments to prevent infection and how to treat the itching from fire ant bites. We'll also discuss fire ant pustules, and we'll explore signs of an allergic reaction to fire ant bites and stings, along with tips to avoid getting stung.

Supplies for Fire Ant Bite Treatment

You'll need the following items to treat fire ant bites and stings.

  • After-Bite Remedy -- Ammonia, After-Bite Stick or Ice Pack (to reduce the itching and burning).
  • Soap and Disinfectant -- Anti-bacterial Soap and Hydrogen Peroxide or Betadine (to clean the ant bites.)
  • Benadryl -- Benadryl or Another Anti-histimine Medication (to control the itching in the long term.)
  • Ointments or Creams -- Hydrocortisone Cream or Spray (to control itching) and Antibiotic Ointment or Neosporin (to prevent infection.)
  • Bandage or Band-Aid -- Band-Aids (for just a few bites) or Rolled Gauze or Large Bandages (to cover large areas.)


How to Treat Fire Ant Bite Itching -- Home Remedies

In the moments after you suffer from fire ant bites, you'll experience an acute burning and itching sensation. The discomfort can be quite intense, but fortunately, it's actually really simple to treat the symptoms.

But before you attempt to treat fire ant bites, you'll need to remove them! It's best to brush off the ants using swift, short strokes. Never, ever try to rinse off the ants with water! This triggers the ants' natural instinct to hold on for dear life, so to speak, and they achieve that with their mandibles! Stated simply, if you try to wash off the ants, they'll bite down in an attempt to avoid getting rinsed away, so you'll get more bites than you would otherwise. So always brush them off; never try to wash them off!

Ammonia as a Fire Ant Sting Treatment

Ammonia is perhaps the best home remedy for fire ant bites. The ammonia neutralizes the venom, thereby serving as an effective fire ant bite treatment.

Apply ammonia to the fire ant bites as soon as possible. Pour it over a large area or dampen a paper towel or cotton ball and apply it to the bite. The ammonia will eliminate the fire ant bite itch and sting within moments.

Another Home Remedy for Fire Ant Bite Itching

Don't have ammonia on-hand? Try an ice pack or another cold compress. The ice pack will greatly reduce the itching and burning sensation.

You may also consider buying an anti-itch insect bite stick or spray. They're frequently sold under names like "After-Bite."


Medications and Fire Ant Bite Treatments for the Itch

After you administer first aid with ammonia for a cold pack, you'll need to take medication to treat the fire ant bite, as the venom can cause swelling and prolonged itching.

Try the following fire ant bite treatments for the itching and swelling:

-- Take doses of an anti-histimine like Benadryl for 24 hours following the bite(s);

-- Apply an anti-histimine cream or ointment, like Hydrocortisone; and

-- Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.

These measures will treat the itchiness associated with the insect bites, but you'll also need to take measures to prevent infection. Read on for all the details!

(Maria Kaloudi Photo)

Did You Know...

Fire ants communicate with each other using chemical signals that travel through the air. These chemical signals are one reason why they're so aggressive. When one ant detects a threat, he'll send chemical signals to fellow fire ants. That's why they attack en masse.


Fire Ant Bite Pustules and Preventing Infection

Fire ant bites are prone to infection. Once you've administered first aid by eliminating the severe itching and burning with ammonia, an ice pack or a bug bite medication, you must clean the bite(s). Wash with an anti-bacterial soap for a total of two minutes.

Clean the bites with hydrogen peroxide or Betadine. Then, apply a layer of hydrocortisone or another anti-itch cream, followed by a layer of antibiotic ointment. Cover with a bandage.

After approximately 12 to 24 hours, a pustule will form at the site of the sting. Many find it tempting to pop fire ant bite pustules, but this must be avoided. If you squeeze the pustule, it will push the infection deeper into the skin.

The pustule will break open and drain after a day or two. Healing will take about a week. Fire ant bites scar on many skin types, leaving a dark mark where the sting was located. These tend to fade and disappear over the course of a few months.

Popping Fire Ant Bite Pustules

It's very tempting to squeeze the pustules formed at the site of red ant bites. They look like whiteheads (pimples).

If you squeeze an ant bite pustule, you'll push the infection deeper into the skin. This increases the chances that you'll need oral antibiotics to treat the infection.

If You Absolutely Must Pop the Fire Ant Bite Pustules...

...Use the following method. But only if you can't resist the urge to pop the pustules. For fast healing, leave them alone!

  • Apply a warm, wet compress for 20 minutes. Wrap a damp washcloth around a microwavable heat pack or soak the region in really warm water.
  • Disinfect a needle by soaking it in rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Betadine for two minutes.
  • Wash your hands and the fire ant bite with anti-bacterial soap. Wash for two full minutes!
  • Disinfect the fire ant bite and surrounding area by swabbing it with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Betadine.
  • Lance the ant bite pustule with the disinfected needle.
  • Allow the pustule to drain. Do not squeeze it!
  • Wash and disinfect the fire ant bite. Wash it for an additional two minutes using anti-bacterial soap. Follow up by swabbing the site of the ant bite with rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Betadine. Allow it to air dry.
  • Apply bydrocortisone cream and antibiotic ointment. Apply a coat of hydrocortisone cream to control the itching and follow by a dab of antibiotic ointment or Neosporin to prevent infection.
  • Apply a bandage or band-aid. This will keep the antibiotic-ointment on the ant bite.


Symptoms and Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Fire Ant Bites

Some people are allergic to fire ant bites and stings. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms are indicative of anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction:

-- Difficulty Breathing;

-- Tongue or Facial Swelling;

-- Nausea or Vomiting;

-- Rapid Heart Rate;

-- Weak or Rapid Pulse;

-- Sweating and/or a Sudden Warm Feeling;

-- Seizures or Muscle Tremors;

-- Fainting or Loss of Consciousness;

-- Pale Skin;

-- Drooling or Salivation; and

-- Rapid Swelling at the Fire Ant Bite Site.

These are among the symptoms of a fire ant bite allergy. If you have an EpiPen, administer an immediate injection. Otherwise, call 911.

Pets and Fire Ant Allergies

Notably, pets can also suffer from fire ant sting allergies, and like humans, anaphylactic shock can be deadly. Therefore, if you see any of the above symptoms in your dog, cat or other animal, rush the pet to the emergency veterinary clinic.

If your cat or dog has a known fire ant allergy, ask your veterinarian about an EpiPen prescription. The injection can be administered to counteract the allergic reaction.

If You Get Attacked by Fire Ants...

Immediately move away from the nest and brush off the ants. Never, ever try to wash away or rinse off fire ants! The ants will bite down in an attempt to prevent getting washed away; it's their instinctive reaction. Therefore, if you try to hose off fire ants, you'll get lots of additional bites! Brush them away instead.


Signs of an Infection and Diabetic Fire Ant Bite Victims

Most fire ant bites will heal within approximately one week. But in some cases, an infection can take hold. An established infection will require a trip to the doctor's office for an oral antibiotics prescription.

Infection symptoms include:

-- Redness;

-- Swelling (beyond approximately 72 hours);

-- Discharge and pus;

-- Foul odor; and

-- Gradual enlargement of the wound or a wound that won't heal.

Over time, the fire ant bite site should be improving. If it's starting to look worse with time, that's a sign of an infection. It can be difficult to notice small changes when you see the wound on a daily basis, so try taking photographs (be sure to use the same lighting conditions for each photo!) Upload the photos onto your computer and compare. This makes it easy to determine whether the ant bites are improving or getting worse!

Notably, fire ant bite scabs tend to remain for a long time -- up to two weeks, in my experience. This is normal.

Diabetics and Fire Ant Bites

Diabetics frequently experience problems with wound healing, particularly on the extremities like the legs and feet. Unfortunately, the legs and feet are common locations for red ant bites and stings.

If you are a diabetic with known wound healing problems, consult your physician if you suffer fire ant bites. Due to the propensity for infection and pustules, red ant bites are especially dangerous for diabetics, so your doctor may opt to prescribe oral antibiotics.

How'd You Get a Fire Ant Bite?


What were you doing when you were attacked by fire ants?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions? Comments?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      20 months ago

      I stepped into a nest of fire ants and got several on legs before getting into car where I realized what had happened. Seems like I now have fire ants in car and house, with bites. Is this possible. Is blood food, or are bites reaction to danger or intrusion...?

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      I used Thyme oil on the bites and the stinging and itching disappeared

    • profile image


      22 months ago

      Three days after the ant encounter and I can barely walk on my foot. Tried your ice idea and that gave me the most relief so far. Thank you.

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      The article was extremely helpful, on how to treat fire ant bites.thank you.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Is exercise discouraged? Will it cause further swelling or deeper infection?

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Love the cornmeal idea, will definitely try. Hate putting poison near garden and that is where they get me.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Some good information in this article, but some of it I question. Being from South Texas/Louisiana area I have some knowledge of fire ants First off the 'blisters' that form around a fire ant bite are not infection they are the body's way of protecting itself from the venom of the sting. (Fire ants bite and sting) While popping the blister may open up the sting to the possibility of infection it doesn't 'drive the infection deeper into the skin' because the blister is not a sign of infection. Next, my family and I have encountered fire ants many times. In fact I'm battling them right now in my yard. My son was/is allergic to them. Out of all the visits to the ER or doctor's office over the years I never once had a doctor suggest bandaging the bites/stings, in fact the consensus seemed to be that it's best to leave them uncovered and open to the air, with loose clothes so that they didn't rub against the stings and irritate them. Maybe if they get infected you might cover them but again those 'blisters' are not infection. I've never even had them wipe them down with alcohol, or suggest it as part of care.

      Treat them for the stinging if you must, but it actually goes away fairly quickly. If you have ammonia on hand close by then great, but by time you go and fetch everything like ice packs and such the stinging will most likely be over. Treat the itching as needed, but sometimes applying something to the sting actually stimulates the itching sensation so only treat it if it is actively itching. Small red bumps with a 'blister' are normal. If it causes a large red welt say as big round as a nickel or quarter or more then you are probably having an allergic reaction (although a milder one) and should have the doctor check it out. If you begin to have problems breathing, feel like your tongue is swelling, notice swelling in your fingers, toes or around your eyes/face. Or extreme swelling at the sting location, or otherwise feeling bad then see a doctor immediately.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I got bit by accidently standing on there hill..didnt know anything about them first hand but didn't really take anything for them as I was at a park so didn't go home for a couple of hours after ..then just showered and went to bed..should I be concerned I have the postuels but avoid rubbing or scratching

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Was out doing the weeding and in knowingly came upon a colony of fire ants they were all over my legs before I realized it . Start d to panic as this is not my first encounter with these little creatures . Now feeling very tired and a little chilly . Should I be concerned

    • profile image

      Sherry Goodwin 

      2 years ago

      Thank you. This was very helpful. My left lower leg was attacked by red fire ants. Fortunately, there were only 3 that formed pustules. And even more fortunate that I'm not allergic to them. The pustules were not improving, but getting bigger. I discovered from this article that it is because I have been poking them in an attempt to dry them up. Thank you. I will avoid popping them now and treat them to prevent further damage.

    • miacarter profile imageAUTHOR

      Mia Carter 

      6 years ago from SW Florida

      @anonymous: Sure! Fire ants can climb, just like other ants. So they could certainly find their way into your 13th floor unit and into your bed!


      Mia Carter

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You can wipe out a colony of the ants by a heavy sprinkling of cornmeal over their mounds....they greedily go after it and will literally implode.....I'm live in Orlando and have them In our yards but I get rid of them with this inexpensive method! Pat Carter

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      20 nasty fire ant bites while gardening on my feet! OUCH

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Is it possible that fire ants occur on beds and they come on the 13th floor.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I hate fire ants because they always bite me.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      8 years ago

      I learned a lot about fire ants in this lens. Never knew about how they communicated. Interesting!

    • spartakct profile image


      8 years ago

      nice informative lens!

    • EpicFarms profile image


      8 years ago

      Fire ants are horrible! We have them everywhere in our area, and they are VERY difficult to keep under control. We treat the yard and pasture with something called "Extinguish" (safe to use around the horses). The ants are miserable for the animals too; it's a never ending battle. I'm going to try the ammonia next time. Handy lens!

    • imolaK profile image


      8 years ago

      Your lens is very helpful and interesting. Blessed.

    • cdevries profile image


      8 years ago

      A really useful lens - especially for those of us who live in the south. Thanks1


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)