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Did You Know...
... that an ant is responsible for the most painful insect sting in the world! According to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, the pain caused by bullet ant bites has the highest score of 4+.

It is a well-known fact that ants are social insects that are found in almost every part of the Earth, except the Antarctica and some remote islands. Ants play an important role in our ecology as scavengers and predators. However, these insects can wreak havoc by damaging crops and invading human habitat. They can also inflict bites and/or stings. Even the name 'ant' is derived from the German word that means 'the biter'.

It is estimated that there are around 22,000 species of ants on the Earth. Among them, more than 12000 species have been classified so far. Most of the ant species can bite. While some types of ants can only bite, others may bite and spray chemicals, like formic acid. There is a third group of ants that can bite and sting. Red fire ant is a stinging species. So the symptoms of ant bites may vary with different species. Ant bites/stings may also cause allergic reactions in some people.

Ant Bite Symptoms

No Significant Reaction: Certain types of ants do not cause any significant pain, even if they bite. For example, some types of crazy ants do bite, but cause very minute pain, that may go unnoticed.

Mild Irritation: In most cases, ant bite symptoms include mild pain, slight swelling, itching, irritation, and redness. The symptoms may not cause much discomfort, and are found to subside within a few hours.

Moderate to Severe Localized Symptoms: While bites caused by some types of ants are not associated with any major symptom, others may cause some amount of pain and discomfort. For example, fire ant bites can cause moderate to severe pain and other symptoms. The following are some of those localized symptoms caused by ant bites.
  • Pain and redness
  • Tenderness and swelling
  • Burning sensation
  • Itching and rash
  • Blisters and pustules
Allergic Reaction: Ant bites may sometimes cause allergic reactions in certain people. Such reactions are mainly seen in case of ant stings, rather than bites. While some people develop mild allergic reaction, for others it could be severe, and even life-threatening. Mild symptoms include rash, hives, itching, redness in the eyes, nasal congestion, etc. Some may develop stomach upset too. The following are some of the severe allergic reactions that may lead to anaphylactic shock, in certain people.
  • Swelling of the face, including the eyes, lips, and tongue
  • Difficulty in breathing and talking
  • Wheezing, cough, and change in voice
  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Rapid pulse, low blood pressure
  • Chest pain, vomiting, and hives
In case of anaphylactic shock, death may happen, if not treated in time. So severe allergic reaction is a medical emergency. Otherwise too, it is better to consult your physician, if you develop mild allergic reaction due to ant bites.

How to Treat Ant Bites

The symptoms of ant bites may not be the same for all. They can be severe and life-threatening in people, who are allergic to ant venom. However, in normal cases, the symptoms of ant bites subside within a few hours or days. Those with minor symptoms can follow these steps.
  • Clean the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.
  • Apply a paste of baking soda and water, for relief from itching.
  • You may also try home remedies, like aloe vera gel, toothpaste, cucumber slices, moist tea bags, etc.
  • If you develop swelling and pustules, avoid scratching the area. Breaking the pustules may lead to infection.
  • In case of severe allergic reactions, like breathing trouble, wheezing, nausea, dizziness, and hives, you have to rush the victim to the emergency room for immediate medical attention.
In case of ant bites, all you have to do is to act swiftly, for relief from the symptoms. You can either opt for some home remedies or over-the-counter lotions. If the pustules are large and/or foul-smelling, along with a discharge, contact your doctor. In case of severe allergic reactions, immediately seek medical attention. For others, the symptoms will subside within a few hours or days. If the symptoms persist or worsen (may happen rarely), you have to contact your health care provider, immediately.

Most Painful Ant Bites/Stings

According to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, the most painful insect stings are caused by bullet ants, which are natives to certain regions of Central and South America. The burning and throbbing pain caused by their stings is compared to that of gunshot wounds. The pain may last for more than 24 hours. However, bullet ant stings may not be fatal for normal humans.

The stings caused by the jack jumper ants (hopper ant, jumper ant or jumping jack) of Australia can be life-threatening, in those who are prone to develop allergic reactions. Even others will develop severe pain, swelling, redness and other symptoms. Fire ants are also among the most dangerous ants, as far as their stings are concerned. These aggressive ants have poison sacs containing piperidine alkaloids. They inject these chemicals into the human body, causing severe itching, pain and swelling. As in other cases, fire ant bites can prove fatal to those who are prone to develop allergic reactions.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.