What Cures Ant Bites?

Written by john kibilko
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What Cures Ant Bites?
Most of the estimated 22,000 species of ants are capable of biting, but few do and even fewer sting. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

There aren't really any cures for ant bites or stings, but there are treatments to alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Most ants are capable of biting, although few species do so. Very few ants, especially in the United States, are capable of stinging, which is the primary cause of pain and swelling. Imported red fire ants are the most aggressive species and the No. 1 culprit of ant stings in the U.S. Southern fire ants, harvester ants, velvety tree ants and velvet ants, which actually are wasps, also produce stings.

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Biting vs. Stinging

Most ants will not bite. However, most stinging ants first bite, gaining a foothold before spraying an acidic compound onto the wound. Imported red fire ants bite and then introduce a stinger, located in the abdomen, into the wound to inject venom. The poison is a toxic alkaloid called solenopsin. Treatments for ant bites and stings, regardless of the species, are similar.

When Bitten

Imported red fire ants red fire ants, including the southern red fire ant, tend to attack when their nests are disturbed. Imported red fire ants have large mounds -- 1 foot tall or taller -- that lead to underground tunnel systems. Other red ants have smaller mounds. Stepping on a mound may prompt an attack en masse, with ants swarming your feet and legs. If you encounter such a scenario, get away from the mound, swipe any ants on your legs and flush the area with any liquid on hand. Wash the area with soap and water to remove venom on the skin and apply alcohol to bites and stings. Ice the area to reduce swelling.

Bleach/Peroxide

After initial treatment, you'll probably experience redness, slight swelling and then the presence of a pustule. An accompanying burning pain and itching will ensue. Fire ant venom also is toxic to bacteria, so the pustule formed is sterile and needn't be picked or lanced, according to Bug Guide.net, a website with pest resource information. Dilute bleach with water in a half-and-half mixture and apply it to the skin. You can do the same thing using a straight solution of peroxide.

Ammonia

Dab the skin area with ammonia as soon as possible after the bite occurs. Like bleach and peroxide, the application of ammonia isn't effective after about 15 minutes of the sting.

Baking Soda

Mix baking soda and water until it is the consistency of toothpaste. Spread it on the wound and allow it to dry. Refrigerating the mixture before application can increase the short-term soothing effect.

Calamine Lotion

Calamine's main ingredients --- zinc oxide and ferric oxide --- have proved effective in relieving topical itching caused by bites, poison ivy and other irritants. However, there's no evidence that calamine has any medical benefit in the treatment of stings, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as reported in a 1992 article in the Seattle Times.

Vinegar

Fire ants use an alkaloid-base cocktail that's toxic. Vinegar, being an acetic acid, helps to neutralise the sting's venom and reduce pain and swelling. Lemon juice also works.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are hormones that are produced by the body's adrenal glands. Topical corticosteroids are common over-the-counter treatments for burns, bites, stings and itching. Hydrocortisone, betamethasone valerate and clobetasol propionate are common corticosteroids found in brand-name products. Apply the product to the skin area according to manufacturers' directions.

Other Remedies

Fruits and vegetables, clay, aloe vera lotion and tea bags all have been reported to have a soothing and pain-relieving effect on ant bites. Meat tenderizer, used with water to form a paste and applied to the sting, is a common home remedy. Bug Guide.net disputes the medical benefits of this treatment, although relief from burning and itching can be found with many topical treatments.

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