Ant Bites Hurt – How to Stop the Pain?

Every summer I manage to get bitten by ants while working in the garden. I never see the critters attacking me, it's later when the bites start to hurt that I notice them.

Ant Bites HurtIt’s 2016 and ants are still biting me. My most recent run-ins with these vicious creatures have been in the Caribbean. As I hang my laundry up to dry on a clothesline, standing in sandy soil near the beach, or sitting on the dry sand on the beach, or even on a plastic chair on the beach, tiny little ants silently climb up on me and bite me. I don’t feel it, and they usually aim for my behind. Ugh!

Ant Bites – How to Recognize an Ant Bite

An ant bite starts as a round red mark. It doesn’t hurt and there is no bump, yet. Ignore it and it becomes a little bump, like a pimple on the skin. Continue to ignore it and the ant bite starts to enlarge and become hard and very painful. At this point it is too late to prevent the pain but not too late to force the bite to go the distance and pop sooner rather than later. You can treat with hot compresses at this point but only to ease the pain and hasten the healing.

When I got my first ant bites, both in the garden and on a tropical beach, before I knew what was happening, I endured days of pain and swelling. These ant bites have been the worse insect bites I have every received, and that includes having camped in the tropics, in the BVI, for weeks at a time, and being stung by a wasp a few years ago. What is it about Grenada : )?  Before I knew what to do I tried hot showers and aloe but those didn’t help. Another week of swelling and pain would continue. And then after the gigantic sore popped open it would weep pus for days requiring me to wear band aids. A 3 week ordeal each time. I didn’t think I could go through this pain again, so I searched the internet for advice.

How to Heal Ant Bites

I found out that heat directed right at the bite might kill the pain. Someone advised using a hair dryer. I didn’t have one so I heated up a wet washcloth in the microwave and used it as hot as possible on the bite area. Finally relief! The compress has to be really hot, as hot as one can stand without burning the skin, to help.

The best way to prevent all of this pain and suffering is to inspect your skin, all over and I mean all over your body, crevices too, in a large mirror with good light, to see any round red spots. The spots are not so small you can’t see them, about the size of dime or nickel. If you can catch the bite at this stage, before you’ve had it for 24 hours, you can make it disappear with super hot compresses. If you don’t see the round red bite right away, it takes a day or two for the bite to start hurting and swelling. As mentioned above, lots of hot water compresses as soon as possible will make the whole healing process happen faster, but you will have to go through the pain and swelling.

ant bites hurt

How to Prevent Ant Bites

My advice is watch out when you move through the garden in summer as it seems that ants are crawling on every leaf and stem, especially on peonies! In the tropics, stay away from dry sand on or near leafy tropical beaches. If you are using a plastic beach chair, try moving it into the wet sand. Usually we like shade on the beach, but if that shade is provided by trees, well, there will be ants.

Preventing ant bites and all insect bites is really my best advice if you want to avoid pain!

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Julia has been practicing green cleaning for several years as the owner of As You Like It Home Cleaning and organic gardening for almost 20 years running Julia Houriet Custom Gardening. She studied landscape design at Radcliffe Seminars in Cambridge Massachusetts. Her expertise is gleaned from education and years of experience.

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  • Tiffany

    I could not find a date on here so I do not know how old this is. (Maybe its because I’m on my iPhone) Anyway, are you sure they were ant bites and not chiggers?

    • I’m not positive, but I dont’ think we have chiggers up here in urban New England. Do we?

  • Brabantia

    I’m currently going through the same ordeal, for the second year (again in June, so not “late summer”). On my leg and … the inside of my lip… imagine the appealing look of a blown up sack dangling on your jaw. But the swelling is different from last year, it’s definitely less severe (I hope it’ll result in a less long healing process… fingers crossed)
    Coincidently I’ve been drinking a lot of homemade elderflower cordial the last couple of weeks and found out it’s supposed to be a natural anti-hystamine so eventhough those bites still suck, you might want to give it a try. Drinking the cordial surely isn’t difficult 😉 There’s many recipes online and it’s a straightforward business to make it.

    • naturallybubbly

      sorry to hear it hope you feel better soon. I’m on high alert for anything crawling on me while gardening. Thanks for the advice about the elderberry cordial.

  • pmpope

    Fire ants! wow! These little critters can certainly bring the pain. I went to Blackhawk hardware (Charlotte) & talked to Wade. He is a database of ‘getting rid of garden pests’. My ant bites are still causing me pain so I am seriously considering this elderberry cordial. :) If you can’t beat ’em; drown the little bugger’s in an Elderberry Cordial! Cheers!

    • naturallybubbly

      thanks for your comment pmpope. Hope you are feeling better today, unless you are now suffering from a hangover! Take care.

  • Mike Benny

    I had never heard of ants biting people (until now). Thank you for the great advice! If you don’t mind, I’m going to post a link to your article on my Ant Blog (antsinmyhouse.com)

    • naturallybubbly

      I think ants are taking over the world! They used to say cockroaches would outlive humans, but now I think it would be ants.

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