a close up of a fire ant

Q. I was looking for information about fire ant stings and arthritis because this just happened to me. I live in Florida and two days ago I got about 30 fire ant stings on my foot.

I used baking soda and vinegar on the foot, so the pain and itching wasn’t too bad. My toes became swollen and tight to the point that I couldn’t bend them, but the swelling went away overnight.

In the past, including very recently, I have had incredible pain from arthritis in this foot. Today, my foot feels great, with no pain at all. I just can’t believe the range of motion I have. All of the joints in the foot are so loose and flexible.

I’m 50 and my foot feels like it did when I was in my 20s. As crazy as this may sound, I’m getting ready to go out and put my hands on one of the several fire ant nests in my yard. If the joints in my hands feel as good as my foot does, I will be a very happy man!

A. We would discourage you from sticking your hand in a fire ant nest on the grounds that bites can become infected. Multiple stings sometimes trigger seizures, heart failure or life-threatening allergic reactions.

That said, there is an unusual approach to treating arthritis and some auto-immune conditions called apitherapy or bee venom therapy. Controlled bee stings may provide significant pain relief for stiff, sore joints or even pain that lingers after shingles.

We interviewed several experts on apitherapy and acupuncture for our radio show. You can listen to the one-hour episode at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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  1. Mark

    When I was very young, I got stung by hornets and wasps every so often, while working in deep woods during Summer in the Pacific NW. After a little while, the swellings would disappear, and the pain would go away without any kind of treatment. Now that I am old – I have become sensitized to the stings, and have to use antihistamines, or I will swell up and who knows what else. One thing that always makes me feel better, is to smash the stinging insects.

  2. AML

    I think it’s sort of like the man who had a headache and whacked his finger with a hammer and then his headache was much better.

  3. GB

    I’m interested in this, keep us posted.

  4. floridananny

    Please notify me of follow-up comments. Thank you.

  5. ladyliza

    Here is a list of herbs that have helped me immensely with my hip arthritis. I am not longer crippled with pain. I have No pain at all.
    I started with niacinamide at my doctors suggestion. Then I started with 2200 mg of turmeric divided doses daily and increased it up to around 4000mg/day. But since I don’t like the taste, even in the pills, I searched for something different.
    Then I tried SAM-e, and that killed most of the pain. I started with 200mg am and 200 evenings. If you find it too expensive, just buy it at vitacost.com. IT is very reasonable there.
    I started serrapeptase, at 5am every morning for a different ailment, but this eliminates most of the inflammation in your body. The only downside is having to wake up at 5am to take it, since your stomach and upper intestines have to be empty. My depression is now gone as I am no longer in any pain. I am 65.

  6. art

    The swelling was probably aided by the use of vinegar on the foot. Raw, Unfiltered ACV (Apply Cider Vinegar) is a wonderful anti-infective/anti-inflammatory agent!

  7. az

    I have heard that bee stings help. I have not tried it. However, if I get ant or spider bite I put Honey on a bandaid and leave it on. It helps with pain and inflammation!! I have also found as for me when I got acne I did the same thing.. leaving it on overnight. It reduces the inflammation and redness.

  8. dvd

    After posting my prior data, I had an additional thought. My autoimmune disease has been in remission this whole year also. I am 69 years old, and I do not now take any prescription drugs. I am in remission for the first time in twenty-two years. It is interesting to note that no more MRSA lesions happened at the same time as the illness went into remission. Evidently the immune suppressing drug (imuran) reduced by body’s ability to fight offs MRSA. It is great to be drug free after all those years of prednisone and/or imuran.

  9. dvd

    I had a single fire ant sting on my lower back in December, 2008, and the result was a huge abscess that required three emergency room visits and antibiotics to heal. Due to a genetic problem I developed an autoimmune disease and was on immune suppressants at that time. The first abscess was MRSA, and I had MRSA infections sixteen times in the following years that required treatment. This year I am MRSA free. My advise is stay away from fire ants, and if you do get a bite, treat it vigorously with antibiotic creams, and see a physician if you get an abscess. MRSA is a scary problem………..

  10. don

    Interested in the results of the baking soda and vinegar for arthritis

    • margaret

      The gentleman was stating that he felt relief from his arthritis after being bit by fire ants. He is wondering if their venom was the reason for the this.
      He used the baking soda and vinegar to help with the burning and itching the bites cause to the skin. They were not what helped his arthritis.

  11. DS

    I would like to hear what happens with JeanLynn.

  12. Dallee

    Especially for arthritic hands, first try epsom salt in very warm water with some mild stretching for at least 15 minutes — feet, too, but the stretching is a bit harder.
    Keep doing it every day or every other day.
    Often, that does help and it is pretty risk free.

  13. Jim

    I find it disturbing that people want to combine vinegar and baking soda as a treatment for anything. This combination is what I use to clear the drains in my home since it is highly caustic. I’ve seen posts on here in the past about combining them to treat heartburn and indigestion, and now to treat topical issues. Am I missing something? Love this newsletter and learn a great deal from it. Thanks.

    • margaret

      Mixing vinegar and baking soda makes water. Not caustic.
      It’s the pressure of the from the build up of bubbles, gas, and liquid that helps clear a drain (if the top has been stoppered tightly). The acid of the vinegar may help a bit, until the chemical reaction with the baking soda turns it to water.
      It appears these two cleaners should be used separately to be at their best.

      “generally when an acid and a base are mixed together, the result is that the acid and base neutralize each other to form water and a small amount of salt.

      In the case of vinegar and baking soda, the acetic acid and sodium hydrogen carbonate combine to form water, carbon dioxide (which is responsible for all the bubbles), and sodium acetate.”
      From this site: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/science/vinegar-baking-soda-the-ultimate-cleanser?page=1

  14. mary

    Please forward me results of JeanLynn’s experiment. Thank you

  15. JeanLynn

    I am wondering if it could have been the baking soda and vinegar that made your arthritis better, not the ant stings? I am going to put baking soda and vinegar on my right hand tonite and see what happens. I have mild to moderate arthritis pain and swelling in my right hand. Report to follow soon.

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