Young boy's death from fire ants in Texas gives cause for concern on the Suncoast

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Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 4:57 pm | Updated: 10:40 am, Wed Sep 18, 2013.

SARASOTA, Fla. - Fire ants were the cause of a young boys death in Texas recently, and now there is cause for concern on the Suncoast.

If you live here, you may have come across a fire ant or two. A run in with these insects can be painful, create swelling, and cause pustules that can become infected, and, if you have a severe reaction a visit to the emergency room could save your life.

"If you don't get medical attention quickly enough you can die." Said Dr. Frederick Romano, DO of Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, "Fire ant bites are similar to bee and wasp stings, they are designed to cause an allergic reaction"

In a severe reaction you could experience anaphylaxis he explained, "Your blood pressure can drop it causes edema or swelling to your airway, to your tongue to your lungs."

And there are other symptoms that send patients to the ER including redness, swelling,and itching. Localized swelling, pain and less severe forms of anaphylaxis can be easily treated with Benedryl, steroids or if they have an infection, antibiotics.

But, be cautious if you have had a bad reaction to a previous fire ant bite, said Dr. Romano, "Anybody who already has a pre-existing condition such as I guess COPD, or asthma or lung problem that requires them to use medications for is also at greater risk."

Over the counter antihistemines, even something as simple as Pepcid can help to lessen your chances of reaction, even if you're heading to the ER. And, if you are in a high risk category, carry an EPI pen for emergencies.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology say insect stings send more than half a million Americans to the ER every year and more than 40 people die annually from insect sting anaphylaxis.

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