I thought we had been doing pretty good by avoiding the ER since December. Unfortunately we had another quick trip to our local ER in June. Little Punkin was swimming at our neighborhood pool with my husband. She was walking around the edge and playing in the lounge chairs. There were quite a few ants nearby due to all the sticky spills around the outside of the pool from all the recent pool parties.
As they were leaving the pool my husband noticed that she was very itchy and suddenly became very cranky. He thought she was just tired and hot. He brought her home and I placed her in a warm bath while I rinsed out her swimsuit. When I pulled her out of the tub to wrap her in a towel, I noticed that she was very red. Within seconds she was covered in a bright red, itchy rash. She began to shriek as I tried to dry her off. The red rash turned into huge red, raised hives that were welts covering her entire body. I noticed that one foot was especially swollen and red.
We gave her some Benadryl and waited for the swelling to go down. It was getting worse every second and her screaming was starting to scare me. She was thrashing around and trying to scratch her skin off. I quickly put on her diaper and tried to calm her as we waited. Then she got scary quiet as the redness kept spreading up her torso and onto her face and neck. That's when I began to panic.
I told my husband that I thought I should take her somewhere to monitor her oxygen levels and heart rate. He agreed so he dressed her while I grabbed the diaper bag and loaded the car. Soon we were on our way to the local ER which is just across the highway from our house. By the time I walked in the doors, Punkin was a mass of raised welts and the color of ripe strawberries. The nurse immediately took us back to a room, took of her jammies, and started checking her vital signs.
Thankfully, Punkin was stable and her breathing was not affected. We stayed in the ER for monitoring for a little while. During this time her rash began to get better and the swelling went down. We were sent home with instructions to give her Benadryl for the next several days and watch the rash carefully.
While we're not sure what caused this severe reactions, we do believe that she was bitten by a fire ant at the pool and that caused her to become itchy and swollen. We'll be following up with our immunologist to see if we can determine the cause of her reaction and see if there are other insects, foods, or environmental allergens that are triggers.
What is an allergy to fire ants?
It does not mean that you have an itchy or uncomfortable bite or that the area around the bite is swollen, red, or tender.
A true allergy to fire ants will manifest itself in:
- Hives on other parts of the body
- Stomach cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the tongue or lips
The allergy can progress to anaphylaxis which causes:
- Drop in blood pressure
- Cardiac arrest
- Closure of the throat
Repeated exposure to your allergen can cause you to have a more severe reaction each time you are bitten.
We will have to monitor Punkin closely and try to avoid fire ants in the future. We have already seen a fire ant allergy in our oldest daughter Curly. Her reaction has been more severe each time she was stung. The last time she had a sting, it took 3 days for her rash and swelling to subside.