Thursday, April 10, 2014

Texas Blue Bonnets and Fire Ants

*warning: if you do not like funky skin pictures, do not scroll all the way down--happy pics first, then yucky ones*

Confession: People in Texas are obsessed with plunking their children down into a field of weeds (sometimes even in a road ditch) to take pictures.  These weeds are blue bonnets and are currently blooming in full force.  I may have bludgeoned people to death on FB with the question of "where ever did you find such a great place for blue bonnet pics????" because obviously I want to deposit my own precious little girl down into those delightfully colorful weeds and take photos.  It is tradition, you know.

I had a great plan.  Truly.  I picked a patch in a park near not far from out house.  This patch was near a trail.  I fully expected Hyperactive Bear to run along the trail and I would take pictures of her gleefully running away from me and the bluebonnets would be in the background.  I stomped around for snakes and found none.  This was going to be great!!!!

Yeah, as with most plans that involve Ellie, things did not go as expected.  She decided to sit.  SIT!   in a fire ant pile.  Fire ants [the species I am referring to in this post are the red imported fire ant] are native to South America but have migrated to the Southern regions of the US back in the 1930s, most likely accidentally imported via shipping crates.  They refuse to leave even though they are highly unwelcome visitors.  Well, actually they do serve a purpose in that they control the ground-nesting bee and earwig population, but I. do. not. like. them.  They swarm.  They attack.  They bite. . . multiple times.  It is estimated that anywhere from 3-16% of the population have an anaphylactic allergy to fire ant bites.  I once got a whopping case of staph due to one bite.  Yay!

Ellie, got over 30 bites. I stopped counting after a while.  She stood up from the flowers grabbing at her dress.  I thought she had to pee. . . until she started screaming.  Chick-a-Boom was under attack.  I threw her ant-covered shoes down the trail.  This caused Ellie to scream louder "Oooooh [shoes]".  They were up her dress.  I couldn't get them off fast enough.  One managed to viciously attack behind her right ear.  Her feet swelled up immediately.  Bright red and hot to the touch. I was profusely apologizing to Ellie while crying.  Ellie's pull-up protected her nether regions.  Those elastic bands that help hold urine in--also prevent fire ants from entering.  My darling.  My Bear.  Swollen and red.  All of this for a dumb picture in some weeds.

Crying hysterically on the phone to my husband and then my mother we developed our treatment plan. . . a la Dr. Google and eHow.

Ellie got a nice soapy bath.  I then applied a paste of baking soda.  Ellie got a whopping dose of benadryl.  Every 6 hours.  The swelling started to go down and we gave her another bath in Domeboro Astringent Solution.  More baking soda paste.  More benadryl.  Ellie didn't scratch at them, but I know they hurt her.  She couldn't wears shoes.  Changing her pull-up was painful.

The next day, the swelling was down and I could see the individual bites.  They came to a pustule head.  They were all red and hot.  I took her to the pedi who gave us a strong prescription steroid cream.  I also got bactroban antibiotic cream because I was told the chances of infection are high. Goody.  After 72 hours, the bites look much better.  I am never taking Ellie outside again.  I am wrapping her in bubble wrap and that is that.

First things first, Blue Bonnet Pictures:

Fire Ants: immediately after attack
There are no pics of her feet.  She would not let me near them.

Large red, swollen areas.  Unable to different individual bites.
Painful to touch and intensely itchy

Fire Ants: 12 hours later after antihistamine administration
swollen red masses with tiny pustule-like heads

Fire Ants: 24 hours later after steroid creams and continued antihistamine administration
You can see how the swelling is gone but the heads of the bites for tiny pustules. It is also hard to see, but they are bright red and more angry than before.
This pic does not do it justice.  Large patches of angry red-hot skin.  Mild swelling.  The bites have white-heads.
Sorry, no feet pictures--still very swollen.  Could not wear shoes.  Would not let me near them.

Fire Ants: 4 days
You can see the now they are just pimple-like marks.  The pustules are mostly dried out and scabbed over. It should be noted that Ellie did not scratch these.  We kept her pretty covered.
Sorry for the poor photo  quality.  They pustular heads are opening and forming craters.  Very itchy.  Some of the heads have turned into scabs.  Swelling is gone.  Heat is gone.

Fire Ants: 1 week
These are the only shots I could get.  Now look like the end stages of chickenpox.  Round bites with scabbed centers. Believe it or not, yesterday was the first time she actually tried to scratch them.



  1. Poor dear Ellie, fire ants should be eradicated! I got my introduction to them when we moved to Houston from the UK - put down my gardening gloves on the grass for a just a moment, then put them on again and wondered why my hands were feeling pain like no other! I had never heard of, or seen, fire ants and my hands were a mess for ages.

    1. yikes! Your poor hands. Yes, the burn and itch. Super painful. I only had a few bites at a time and they were horrible and they are impossible to get rid of!

  2. Oh, poor baby! That looks absolutely unbearable - sounds like she was a trooper though! You'd have to sedate me & eradicate my memory & I'd probably go to jail because I'd be out there dynamiting the place. *shudder* (Really pretty flowers though :) )

    1. It was HORRIBLE. I am crying hysterically and tell her "I am so sorry" and practically wailing. People are jogging by and do not help as the ants are swarming up her dress. I am brushing them off as fast as possible. Of course at this point she is freaking out about her shoes being down the trail because they were PINK. Those things had about 40 ants in them. Of course the ONE time my daughter decides to sit and cooperate for pics she finds a large ant pile. AUGH

  3. Poor, poor baby. And mommy. Thankfully you were quick thinking and got prompt treatment. Not that it helps any, but at least it wasn't worse.

  4. Poor, poor dear! You handled it so well. I got one fire ant bite on a toe last summer, just ONE and it was awful; my toe swelled up so bad they suspect I might have an anaphylactic reaction next time, so I am wearing boots all summer. Hope the remainder heal quickly.

    1. Yikes and scary! Boots all summer sounds miserable and HOT! Stay safe!!!!!!!!

  5. Ouch! Looks painful, that poor baby!! She's a trouper for not scratching them.

  6. Holy cow!! Poor Ellie Bear!! I can't believe that nasty sore those bites leave and how long they take to heal!! I hope she is on the mend!

  7. Oh no!! I will be hanging out here in New England wearing long pants and boots just in case. Cuz that looks UNFUN. I just want to hug both of you! very gently.

  8. I just stumbled upon your blog...this is horrible! Please check out our new technology to help eliminate fireants!

  9. I was googling red ants and stumbled across that picture of your daughter. Oh my goodness. I'd have insane mom guilt with that too. I got bitten at the Round Top antique faire and being 31 thought, why in the world am I being such a baby? Then my whole body started itching, I have welts all over, every contact point- jewelry, clothing, shoes- all itches even though the bit is on my foot. It's swollen 3 inches at the spot. Crazyyyyy. I was thinking how lovely it would be to move here from california and between that and the scorpion black spider bugs, wasps and other who knows what insects we have been killing in our bnb...idk.


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