Health & Spirit

Avoid the fire ant

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

In the 2015 movie "Ant-Man," Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) develops an armored suit that can shrink someone to the size of an ant and give that tiny creature superhuman strength. When the technology falls into the wrong hands, the bad guys figure that an army of these ferocious "ants" easily can take over the world.

Well, in many parts of this country, another army of ferocious ants -- red imported fire ants -- have taken over backyards and fields (did you see the floating masses in Hurricane Harvey's backwaters?). They've been spreading up from the Gulf Coast since they first arrived on a South American cargo ship in the 1930s. These days, they occupy more than 310 million acres of land across the U.S.

You'll find their moundlike nests (always call professionals for their removal) in sunny, open areas like playgrounds, parks, golf courses and lawns. If you or your child stumbles across one, the ants swarm out and attack. It's estimated that they sting at least half the population in an affected area each year!

Soothe the sting: A welt from a sting appears within 24 hours and turns into a white pustule. Itching can last for days; corticosteroid ointments and oral antihistamines can help, but don't break the blister. If you do, clean the area with soap and water to avoid a secondary reaction. Most reactions don't require a trip to the emergency room. Unfortunately, some people have an allergic response that triggers hives, difficulty breathing and even life-threatening anaphylaxis, which requires a shot of epinephrine.


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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