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Even With Cooler Weather, Fire Ants Still Active

Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – If you think by looking at the calendar that you have likely seen the last of fire ants for the season, you might want to reconsider.

Heavy rains over the weekend have caused some  ant mounds to float to the surface…ready to waylay any unsuspecting sportsman or pet or even a child on a playground.

“Fire ants are in North Central Texas year-round,” says Scott Sawliss, an entomologist for Dallas County.

Allergist Dr. Drew Bird agrees.  “Absolutely, we can see a child with a fire ant bite any time of the year.”

Dr. Bird is director of the Food Allergy Clinic at Chidren’s Medical Center in Dallas. He says while fire ant bites normally cause redness and itching, it’s wise to keep after them.  “If the child’s insect bites hurts or becomes really red and inflamed, becomes heated or there starts to be spreading of the site where the bite was, or there maybe some concern for infection so the child should be seen by their pediatrician.”

In worst case scenarios the ants cause swollen throats and difficulty breathing.

Technically they’re not bites but more like stings from bees. “And it is a venom-type toxin that causes a different immune reaction to different people.” says Sawliss.  “Some people have a larger reaction and others have less.”  He advises that avoiding fire ant mounds is the best defense.  “So if you’re going to be in soccer fields, or open pasture lands, seeing the mounds themselves.”

Second best defense for you and your loved ones is protective clothing.  Have your kids wear shoes, socks, and long pants and shirts, not sandals and shorts.

And if after all that they still get stung, Dr. Bird advises, “First of all you want to clean (the wound area), you may apply a topical antihistamine or some low-potency topical steroid to help decrease the inflammation and itching at the site of the bite.”

Sawliss adds that homeowners can use EPA-approved broadcast bait in yards and pour approved poisons on the mounds themselves.

He advises neighbors to all treat their yards at the same time to keep ants from ping-ponging back-and-forth from yard to yard.

(© Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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