Severe Allergic Reaction to Fire Ant Bites



I am posting this message in the hope I can help anyone that could have this life threatening allergy, and like me, not be aware of it. If I can help to save one life through this message, then the purpose of why I have this allergy will be clearer to me. I grew up in Chicago and moved to Texas in 1989. Until then, I had I never heard of fire ants and it was not until 2003 when I was bitten and rushed to the Emergency Room in an ambulance with a life threatening allergic reaction to the ants' venom, that they became a part of my everyday life. I was told at discharge from the ER, that little could be done about this allergy except the standard precautions. As an avid gardener I was determined to not let this situation get in the way of my passion and over the last 10 years, I have been very careful, but not fearful in my garden with no further instances, until now. It had been raining in Dallas for the last week, which makes the possibility of fire ants even greater. When Paul left to play golf yesterday, he warned me, as he always does, to be careful of the ants, particularly around the flower pots. I had a lot to do in the garden and was very pressured for time. I practiced my usual standard precautions around the pots and carefully moved a large one across the concrete. I set it down, then lifted it just slightly to readjust it into position. It was then that ants swarmed my feet. I kicked off my shoes, brushed them off with my hands and ran into the house to get my EpiPen, but I was in such a panic I could not find it. I had an emergency plan prepared for such a moment, if Paul was not home to help me, but the panic would not let me concentrate on it. I had seen my neighbor drive up a few minutes earlier, so I grabbed my purse and phone and ran next door to ask her to drive me to the ER. I knew from previous experience that I only had 15 minutes before the allergic reaction would take effect. I was very hot, and the minute we turned into the ER, 15 minutes after the bites, the situation got much worse. Vitals were taken upon arrival and revealed very low falling blood pressure with tachycardia, I was in anaphylactic shock. My thoughts were everywhere, as I heard the sounds of machines beeping, and many voices, as the room filled up with skilled healthcare workers. I was there for several hours and at discharge the ER physician told me that I was lucky to be alive. Fire ants have now infested more than 260 million acres in the southern United States. The Emergency Room Physician told me that recent strides have been made through allergy testing and subsequent allergy shots to decrease the possibility of allergic reaction to fire ant venom. I checked it out at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the Academy of Asthma and Immunology and on UpToDate - Unfortunately, in researching, I also found a recent post on NPR that the shot administered to prevent the allergic reaction can also cause the same allergic reaction. If you are bitten by a fire ant and start to feel very hot, suffer from dizziness and a feeling like you are going to pass out, call an ambulance immediately. You only have a few minutes to get help. My sincere thanks goes out to the very skilled healthcare workers, nurses, and physicians that acted quickly to save my life. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I could be killed by an ant, one of the smallest creatures on the earth. Life never ceases to amaze me.