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Home Remedies to Ease Pain of Fire Ant Stings

Making a paste of meat tenderizer and water to apply to the sore red spot can ease the pain of fire ant stings quickly. Other remedies also help.
Home Remedies to Ease Pain of Fire Ant Stings
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An insect sting can hurt like the dickens, whether the culprit is a bee, a yellow jacket or another type of wasp. Then there are fire ants. They are named for the burning sensation they cause when they sting. Any sting could trigger a dangerous reaction, and needs attention. But if the reaction is mainly pain, what do you do for fire ant stings?

Meat Tenderizer for Fire Ant Stings:

Q. My young daughter was stung on the hand by fire ants. Her hand began to swell. We called her pediatrician and he got us into his office right away to see the reaction for himself. It wasn’t affecting her respiration, so it was not an emergency.

He said:

“What is an insect sting but a protein byproduct? Make a paste of Adolph’s meat tenderizer and water and apply it to the sting. It tenderizes meat because it breaks down protein. Get the unseasoned kind. She’ll be fine.”

Since then, we have always kept some Adolph’s in the house and in our camping gear. We use it on bee stings as well as fire ant stings.

A. Meat tenderizers contain either bromelain (derived from pineapple) or papain (derived from papaya). Either enzyme breaks down protein.

We first stumbled upon using meat tenderizer against insect stings in JAMA (April 24, 1972). The author recommended mixing a quarter-teaspoonful or so with a teaspoonful of water.

Other Home Remedies for Fire Ant Stings:

Other readers have reported success treating fire ant stings with vinegar as well as meat tenderizer. Home remedies including witch hazel, dilute ammonia, castor oil or benzoyl peroxide (found in over-the-counter acne remedies) have been used against stings from other types of insects as well as fire ants.

Some people claim that putting a fresh-cut piece of onion on the fire ant sting also works well. This can be an effective remedy to soothe the pain of a wasp or yellow jacket sting.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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