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Tips on how to deal with a fire ant sting

A fire ant (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of the Environment)

Following the first case in Japan of a person being stung by a venomous fire ant on July 27, advice has emerged on what to do in case you get stung.

Professor Yoshiaki Katsuda of the Kansai University of Social Welfare has put together a list of tips, which recommends the following steps: cool down the affected area, clean it, realize you're at risk, look to take medication, rest and also make sure someone else is nearby.

In the case of the male worker in his 30s who was stung in Fukuoka Prefecture on July 27, the symptoms were mild. However, the venom contained within fire ants -- that are originally from South America -- can in some rare cases trigger a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis can lead to symptoms such as full-body rash, breathing difficulties, reduced blood pressure and impaired consciousness, within a few hours or even just a few minutes. In addition, the components of fire ant venom are similar to those of bee venom, which means that people who are allergic to bee venom should be particularly careful.

An additional concern is if symptoms worsen one would not be able to respond to the situation on their own. For example, in such an event, it would be necessary for someone nearby to help you out in case you are unable to call emergency services due to breathing difficulties or have fallen down after a sudden loss of consciousness. Commenting on these scenarios, Katsuda says, "It is preferable that someone else stays near you for a while and monitors your situation."

Furthermore, on the Ministry of the Environment homepage, there is guidance on what to do in the event of a fire ant sting. It recommends that you should rest for 20 to 30 minutes immediately after the sting and look out for any changes in physical condition. It adds that if symptoms suddenly worsen, you should aim to go to the hospital immediately, by ambulance if necessary.

Also, the Japanese Society of Allergology says that the most important response is to inject adrenaline intramuscularly. There are products consumers can easily use such as adrenaline auto-injector "EpiPen."

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