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What Is the Best Treatment for Ant Bites?

Toothpaste can soothe pain from ant bites.
Antihistamines can be used to reduce swelling and redness from a bite.
The aloe vera plant can be used to treat pain and inflammation caused by ant bites.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2014
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A number of treatments are available for ant bites, although they can also resolve on their own without any intervention from the patient. Many people are primarily concerned with addressing the pain and itching associated with an ant bite, and fortunately most kitchens have a few things which can be applied to an ant bite. However, some people can develop allergic reactions to ant venom, in which case they will need medical treatment in a hospital.

Most ant bites are harmless, although the bite of a fire ant can be extremely painful. Ants will also bite without provocation, which can make bites difficult to avoid. Classically, a bite will turn red and swell up, and it can take several days to resolve. The biggest risk with ant bites is that they will become infected, which classically occurs when people scratch at itchy bites, causing them to ulcerate and creating an opening in the skin which can be colonized by bacteria.

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Immediately after an ant bite, the bite should be washed with warm water and soap, and sterilized with a material like hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, or betadine. This will reduce the risk of developing an infection as a result of the bite, and it can also flush out some of the venom, reducing the stinging and pain. Taking an antihistamine like Benadryl can radically reduce swelling and redness, and will limit itching during the healing process. Over the next few days, patients should keep the bite clean with soap and water, and apply cortisone cream as needed if the bite becomes itchy.

If ant bites are extremely painful, a paste of baking soda and water can be applied to the bite to ease skin irritation. People can also use toothpaste, aloe vera, or cortisone cream to cut down on pain and swelling. Icing ant bites is also recommended, as it will reduce the swelling and numb the area, making it feel less painful. Varying levels of success are experienced with these remedies, and people may have to engage in some trial and error to find the best treatment for them. Other substances people have been known to use on ant bites include: bleach, clay, ammonia, and lemon wedges.

If someone starts to develop signs of an allergic reaction, he or she should be immediately taken to a hospital. These symptoms include shortness of breath, pale skin, sweating, confusion, a rapid heart rate, a large skin rash around the bite, and unconsciousness. When seeking medical treatment, people should specify that the patient was bitten by an ant. Doctors like to know when the bite occurred, if possible, and sometimes it helps to have a sample of the ant in question.

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Discuss this Article

anon961819
Post 17

Are you supposed to squeeze the venom out of the bite because I got a whole bunch of bites and I'm squeezing them like crazy! They itch like crazy and burn when I put alcohol on them.

anon961503
Post 16

I have the same thing, but it's red pustules and it's all over my genitals.

anon946253
Post 15

I have a terrible reaction to ant bites. They swell and leave a big scar and I can tell they still have a bump with the poison inside. They never really heal; the top just keeps peeling.

anon316608
Post 11

I've tried some natural remedies because my kids seem to get bit every summer. I found a spray at HEB called fire in the hole that stops it immediately but that still doesn't keep my kids out of the woods! Alcohol does help if you have access to it right away but it sometimes makes the itch worse when the bite are healing. That spray does seem to help with the blisters a bit too.

Perdido
Post 10

The first rule of how to treat ant bites is simple. Remove the ants from your skin!

My fifteen-year-old neighbor got three ants on her foot, and instead of immediately scraping them off, she started running in a circle and screaming. The pain was only getting worse because they still had a grip on her flesh!

I ran over there and removed the ants from her feet. By that time, she had some pretty bad bites.

Her mother was a doctor, so I took her to see her at work just to be on the safe side. I had no idea whether or not she had allergies, so I wanted to be sure that she was safe.

JackWhack
Post 9

@shell4life – Aloe vera gel does make my ant bites calm down a bit. However, I think the best thing you can do is take an antihistamine right after you have been bitten.

If you prevent some of the allergic reactions from intensifying, then you won't have as many problems with itching and burning later on. A little bit of hydrocortisone cream is all I need to control the mild itching that I experience.

If you don't have an antihistamine available when you are bitten, then you can put ice on the bite. It will cut out some of the pain and swelling, and you'll be left with temporary numbness.

shell4life
Post 8

The worst thing about ant bites is the itching. It's worse than the initial pain you feel, even with the fire ants.

The itching can continue for a week or so. I get bitten on my feet in the summer, because my yard is full of ants.

It's impossible to keep from scratching them, but I can cut down on the itchiness by applying aloe vera gel. It's very cooling, and it immediately soothes the bite.

StarJo
Post 7

I had no idea there were so many ways to treat ant bites! I've heard of the baking soda method before, but I didn't know that toothpaste could work, too.

I just put alcohol on mine. It makes the pain and itching much less severe.

anon300653
Post 6

When I get bit by fire ants, the bites swell up and fill up with fluid. It sort of resembles a brown recluse bite. Has anyone else had any problems similar to this?

anon268601
Post 5

Mine are getting red and swelling, and they are popping up all over, even on my finger and face!

anon260125
Post 4

It seems Desitin cream (zinc oxide) for some reason, takes the itch out almost immediately.

Babalaas
Post 3

@ Cougars & Chicada- There are some situations where ant bites are a remedy for certain ailments. When I was a kid growing up in Hawaii, my uncle told me that a certain type of ant could be used to stitch up a wound and was actually used by ancient Hawaiians.

The ants have really big heads and huge mandibles that look like they could cut through leaves and very small twigs. They were all over the place, but for the most part, they were not very aggressive. The idea is to pick them up behind their head, push them up against a closed wound, and twist their bodies form their head when they bite. The heads would stay on the wound and dry up. Once the wound was healed enough the ant heads would be pulled out.

The use of ants as a piece of medical equipment is genius. Living in places like that make you realize that the world was civilized before the industrial revolution.

cougars
Post 2

@ Chicada- The last time that I was bitten by an ant, the ant bites left blisters all over my legs. I was bitten about four or five times. Probably the worst side effect of the bites was the itching. I felt like I had to constantly scratch the area and that nothing would make the itching stop. I hope that is the last time I am bitten by fire ants.

chicada
Post 1

Fire ants bit my girlfriend and me, and they were the worst insect bites ever. I have been bitten by centipedes before, but I have to say a fire ant bite trumps that. My bites healed relatively quick, but my girlfriend (fiancée now) ended up with an infected area the size of a slice of pizza for almost three weeks, and purple spots where the three bites were for over a month.

One thing that did help to prevent infection was to wipe the area with alcohol swabs; I keep them in my truck because I live in the dessert and you never know when you will need a sterile situation. The antihistamine was worthless, but rubbing aspirin paste on the bites helped her with the pain. I spend a lot of time outdoors, so I am sure that I will be bit again, but I am hoping that the reaction will not be so bad since I have been bitten before. I know that this is often the case with bites from other slightly venomous creatures.

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