Fire ants are everywhere on Fort Bragg. I have a rule - first look where I step and then look for bugs. However, today I stepped up onto a cement garden border and just like that I have at least 10 fire ant bites. I thought I would share some of the ant bite rememdies I've found on the web. Keep in mind I'm just sharing information here....not recommending any specific treatment. Also keep in mind that some of these remedies may work for certain types of ant bites and not for others.
Mixing chlorine-containing substances like bleach or cleanser with ammonia creates a deadly poisonous gas- so use either the bleach or the window cleaner, but not both!
1. Meat Tenderizer -
Meat tenderizer in the acute treatment of imported fire ant stings.
Ross EV Jr, Badame AJ, Dale SE.
Meat tenderizer containing the proteolytic enzyme papain was tested for therapeutic efficacy in the sting of the imported fire ant. The parameters of pain and itching were used to evaluate qualitatively the sting response in 22 healthy medical students, and the laser Doppler velocimeter was used to assess quantitatively the change in cutaneous blood flow. The results indicated that, during the acute-phase reaction, no clinically or statistically significant difference was found between stings treated with meat tenderizer and stings treated without tenderizer. Therefore we conclude that meat tenderizer is of no therapeutic value in the acute treatment of the imported fire ant sting. (1)
2. Baking Soda & Benedryl-
The venom is quite toxic. It immediately causes a temporary burning sensation, then an itchy wheal ("whelp"), and eventually forms a pustule in about 8 to 24 hours which is the result of sterile tissue breakdown from the venom and pus accumulation. They resolve in about 10 days. A late reaction consisting of a large surrounding area of red, hard, and very itchy skin is commonly seen, and can be confused with a bacterial infection (cellulitis).
Bites are treated with cool compresses, followed by application of a paste made with baking soda. Sarna® lotion (0.5%camphor + 0.5% menthol) is soothing, especially if it is refrigerated. Meat tenderizer, useful for jellyfish stings, is however of no value. Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) provide some relief. A short course of steroids is sometimes prescribed for severe local reactions.
Parents are sometimes tempted to prick open the characteristic little white pustules on the skin, thinking that they appear to be infected. However, the fire ant venom is toxic to bacteria as well, so the pustule that forms is sterile, and should not be opened but allowed to eventually flake off. (2)
3. Diluted Bleach -
Dr. Barry Paull...said the fire ant's venom is an oily alkaloid mixed with a little protein, and your one chance to lessen the effect of the bite is to quickly break down the protein. He recommends dabbing the bite with diluted bleach or covering it with a paste of meat tenderizer and water. This method is not effective if more than 15 minutes have passed. Another option is to treat stings with an insect bite remedy containing benzocaine or other ingredients that deaden pain and protect against infection.
"If you are especially sensitive to fire ant stings, you should see an allergist," Paull says. He says if a sting leads to chest pains, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling or slurred speech, the person should be taken to an emergency medical facility immediately. (3)
For those suffering just pain and the development of pustules, a simple solution of half
bleach and half water applied immediately to the area can reduce the pain, itching and, perhaps, pustule formation. It is essential to apply it quickly (Vinson and Sorenson 1986).(4)
4. Ammonia -
Fire ants have a unique venom which is an oily alkaloid mixed with a little protein and your one chance to lessen the pain from the sting is to quickly break down the protein. fire ant stings can be treated by dabbing the bite with ammonia or diluted bleach (1:1 bleach and water). However, this method doesn't work if more than 15 minutes have passed. (5)
5. Vinegar -
Fire ants do not use formic acid in their sting, they use a cocktail of an alkaloid (a base) that is also toxic and allergenic proteins (induce an allergic effect in the body, by forcing the mass production of class E immunoglobins (IgEs). since the sting is a base, it does not make sense for ammonia or baking soda to treat a FIRE ANT sting. bases do not neutralize bases, they raise the pH. something more like white vinegar (acetic acid)or a weak acid would work(formic acid) to neutralize the sting. (Omar Fahmy)
Mentioned in the Dr's Book of Home Remedies, it kills the itch and stinging for a while, just re-apply when itching again. (6)