Enough, Already! Or, What Do Fire Ants, Cellulitis, and Ascending Lymphangitis Have In Common?


Fire Ant
(There are several varieties, but all look similar.)

I’ll tell you what they have in common: a second trip to the ER in eight days and  a ninety-minute IV hookup! Yep. I’m not sure I’ve ever been treated in an ER before, and now I’ve had to visit one twice in just over a week! Saw the same doctor, too. We’re on a first-name basis, now.  And what caused this week’s drama? A stinkin’, vicious little  invasive critter known as a fire ant!


Note the BIG Jaws on the head, and the
pointy STINGER on the other end!

Fire ants aren’t content with just biting you, like most ants, oh no. They bite in order to hang on to your skin while they STING the hell outta you with the HARPOON in their posterior region! Fire ant bites cause a red lump with a “blister” (a/k/a pustule, ick) on top. The sores  itch like fire–hence the name–and on many of us can last ten days or longer before finally shrinking to nothing and disappearing. You can end up in the hospital if you are allergic to them, or, like me, accidentally scratch them open and they become infected. Often seriously so

Tuesday afternoon, I realized that the one on my arm was not looking good. I treated it with some  antibiotic ointment and crossed my fingers. Yesterday  morning, it was looking much worse, but I couldn’t get in to see my doctor. Within a couple more hours, it was a mess, and I had red streaks about 6 inches above the bite, running in several directions. This is what we used to call “blood poisoning” and it was NOT to be dismissed lightly. Today, it’s known as ascending lymphangitis, or an infection spreading upward through the lymph glands, toward the heart! (BTW, “cellulitis” just basically means “infection of the cells.”)

No way I could wait for my doctor to be available. 

Back to the ER I went, where they admitted me immediately and said they needed to get antibiotics in my system as fast as possible, thus the IV. On the happy side, the red lines started fading within a couple of hours, and the rest of my medication can be taken via the usual route, by mouth with a glass of water, over the next week. 


Typical Fire Ant Mound
(Though They CAN be Smaller, Too)

I’m reporting this in detail because I want those of you who live in areas where fire ants have taken over to be very aware that their bites can be more than just a painful annoyance. The current thinking is, do NOT puncture the blister on top of the bite, and if it accidentally gets broken open, clean immediately, and treat with antibiotic ointment. If it starts oozing and hurting, get medical treatment before you end up with streaks running up your arm. Lymph gland infections can lead to all sorts of problems, including organ failure, and they spread very quickly. 

Speaking of spreading, these nasty little ants have been doing so (especially in the southeast) for years, via the usual methods, plus the ability to make large, floating mounds of nothing but THEM, and drifting along on water to reach their next area to colonize. They move this way often after storms and flooding.


Nuthin’ Here But ANTS, Being Carried Along
on Top of the Water. Soooo . . .

Praemonitus, praemunitus!
or
Forewarned is forearmed. 

*NOTE: This has been a Public Service Announcement.*
😉

78 thoughts on “Enough, Already! Or, What Do Fire Ants, Cellulitis, and Ascending Lymphangitis Have In Common?

    • They are truly demonic little insects, aren’t they? And I can only imagine that you have plenty of them in Texas. I can’t imagine anyone not hating them, myself, and I’m usually pretty forgiving of animals and insects.

      And thanks for your well wishes. The doctor told me at least three times it was a good thing I came in, and that waiting even another 24 hours would have been a very bad idea. I could believe it, given how fast the lymph infection was spreading. Holy Moly!

      Keep a sharp eye out for them, Becky, and stay unbitten! Wish I had! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  1. How can you help but scratch them,they itch so bad. I have burst them many times,even tho that hurts and it has to madness, they go away quicker. Now you are going to make me think abt it more. Thanks. I would die if I waited to see my doctor and he won’t do anything any way.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You know, I used to pop them, too, Vee, because they seemed to heal more quickly afterward. But now that I know how very easily they can become infected (and how SERIOUS the infection can become in just a few hours), I won’t do it again. If you DO, be sure to wash your hands first, wash the bite afterward, and put antibiotic ointment on it. That would reduce your chances of getting infected! Better yet, don’t get bitten. Hahahaha. (Like stay inside forever, huh?) 😀 Nice to see you here today! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    • I hope you NEVER get one, Jeanne. I’ve been bitten by them hundreds of times over the years while gardening or hiking. I guess I was just lucky none of the bites ever got infected until this one. The good news about this mishap is that the antibiotics seem to be working, and I’m not in any PAIN, like I was for days after the fall. So, be thankful for small favors, eh? 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 3 people

    • I think that’s their EVIL PLAN, Mary! I grew up in Florida BF (Before Fire ants), but they are everywhere now, especially in dryer areas and pastures. I know they’ve spread throughout the southeast, and even into Texas, etc, but don’t know how far north they might go. I just know getting bitten (or stung) by one is very, very painful and itchy as heck. And now I know how badly the sores can get infected.

      The good news is, I think it’s responding well to the antibiotics and hopefully will be no more of a problem, but yes. It’s a good thing I went! Could have ended up in the hospital. 😯 As for what’s next, not much, I hope, but peaceful, normal days filled with relaxation and writing. And then a trip to Denver to be with Erin & Crew. That’s all I’m asking for. 😀

      Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Pam, but it was a bit of a mess at first. I tried my doctor, but she wasn’t available (probably would have sent me to the ER anyway). Then I went to a nearby Urgent Care/Walk In place. Very crowded. Waited an hour and no one had moved. When they told me it could be another 2 hours, I left and headed straight for the full-on ER. They took care of me MUCH faster. And I probably couldn’t have gotten the IV at the clinic, anyway, so I figure I saved myself hours by going to the ER. I’ll know better the next time. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG. I just can’t turn my back can I. I go to Canada on a book tour and look what happens to you. So glad you went to ER when you did. Please get better soon and for Pete’s sake, stay out of trouble. BTW I read Emissary 2 on the plane over. Loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wait. Are you saying that this happened to me because you neglected to watch over me properly?? You mean, I can blame you for all of this??? Yay!!! I’m really tired of having no one to pin the blame on, you know. 😀 😀 😀

      I’m much better today, and I’ll know just what to do next time. Unless, of course, you go on another trip, and something totally new befalls me. Hahahahaha.

      So glad you enjoyed The Emissary 2. I’ll be working on 3 as soon as I finish WRR4. Assuming I’m EVER able to do so! 😀 Thanks, Darlene! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Marcia! That’s terrible. I’m so glad that the ER got you sorted out. My latest WIP, The Colony series, is inspired by the research I did on ants after having not one but three indoor nests this year. We can’t get rid no matter what we try. Happily, they’re nothing like those fire ants. Sending hugs and love your way 🤗xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Harmon! And yeah, there are ants . . . and then there are ANTS! *shudder* Because of the humidity and heat, we have trouble a couple times a year with indoor ants, too, but like you say, they aren’t the kind that attack US. They can, however, do some damage to woodwork, etc, so we treat them. It takes a few weeks, but we can usually get rid of them for long periods. Eventually, they will come back, though. *sigh* Good luck with yours! And be glad you don’t have invasions of fire ants going on. Awful things!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad you didn’t wait! I didn’t know that ant bites and stings could do this…yikes. I know we have red ant but not sure if they are the fire ants. Carpenters ants are what cause issues here. Rest up and heal. Sending hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have carpenter ants, too, Denise. They can cause a LOT of damage to wood, etc, but even though they can bite, it’s nothing quite like a fire ant sting. (Still trying to get used to saying sting instead of bite.) I don’t know how far they’ve spread, though I do know they are very common in the southeastern part of the country now. I might have to check for a range map, because I’m thinking these guys could be part of an interesting program on annoying and/or dangerous insects and other pests. Thanks for the hugs! I’ll take ’em. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself yesterday, as I lay there in the ER, IV in hand, wondering how I managed a second trip in barely over a week’s time. But I’m over it today. Got too much to do to sit around moaning and groaning, and shaking my fist at the sky! 😀

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  5. Oh no, Marcia, you really are in the wars. Sally Cronin is allergic to fire ants. I remember she got stung in the US while having a Jacuzzi party with friends. She nearly died, if I recall correctly. Willow Withers recently wrote some posts on the dangers of blood poisoning as she became very ill after a scrape on her hand became infected. Goodness me, I think you hubby must lock in your room with a supply of food and water until your luck changes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, please don’t give my husband any ideas, Robbie! He’s just been looking for an excuse to shut me away! 😯 😀

      How awful for Sally! She and I can commiserate over our fire ant experiences! So glad she’s okay now, as an allergic reaction can be so frightening and dangerous! Sorry for your friend, Willow, too. Infections are something folks need to take very seriously, for sure.

      But I’ve made up my mind, now. I’m OVER all these medical emergencies. I refuse to accept delivery of another one! Too much to do for all these constant interruptions. 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Olga. I do feel much better today, especially every time I look at my arm and see those huge red lines faded almost completely away. It’s getting better, and I know just what to do if that should change. My new best friend, Dr. King, told me to come back to the ER at once, and believe me, I won’t hesitate to do so. 🙂 Hopefully, it will get better each day while I finish the meds, and will be gone when they are. 🙂 ❤

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    • Thank you so much, Staci. While I defend a lot of crawly things, fire ants aren’t one of them. First of all, they don’t belong here in the U. S. which always causes problems. So I’m going to hate those right along with you. I’m feeling pretty optimistic today, as everything seems to be responding properly to the meds, so all should be well soon! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve heard fire ants are nasty, nasty creatures but fortunately, I’ve never encountered one.

    I am so sorry to hear you had another setback. And just when you were feeling better too!
    Thank heavens you went to the ER when you did. I can just imagine the doctor’s expression when he saw you…probably thought you were there related to the fall and head injury.

    When I would get sick back to back or have mishaps as a kid my mom used to joke and say she was going to put me in a bubble to keep me safe. I think you need a bubble for a few days 😀 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • You heard right, Mae. Nasty is an understatement, I fear. I hope you NEVER get bitten by one, much less get an infection. The biggest part of my setback was the anxiety over the possibility of the infection CAUSING a setback. But mostly, it was a lot of time away from my writing, which made me sad, and some throbbing in my arm, which has all but disappeared now. So I’m doing okay, and mostly over the fall, too. Brains still feel a bit scrambled, but almost all of the body aches have disappeared, and the lump on my head is completely gone, though tender to touch yet.

      I just didn’t need another trip to the ER or an infection running rampant through my body. It scared me, honestly, but I think it’s under control now. Fingers crossed. And I’d like to think that’s the last medical issue I’ll have this year! I’m over it!

      No bubbles for me, thanks. I’d rather risk a few minor injuries than be shut up in even a CLEAR container. Eeeek. But I promise to be very careful!

      The doctor did have a very strange look on his face when he came into my room, but I assured him right away it was unrelated, and that I had been doing well recovering from the fall. He was very nice to me, and even asked how Mark was doing–by name! (He said he’d remembered that it was alliterative, Mark and Marcia). 😀 I think I should drop in now and then when I’m healthy, just to say hi and thanks! 😀 😀 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sorry to lean this, but fascinated at the same time. I have a scene for a book loosely plotted out involving fire ants. I may actually have to tone it down from reality. The healer is somewhat magical, so maybe not. Still thinking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In my opinion, you could get away with writing them as Minions of Satan, if you wanted. They are demons! Fiends! And I don’t like ’em much, either. (And that was long before I ever had one of their bites/stings get infected!) GAH. I did think the subject might interest some of our creative thinkers out there, and I’m not surprised one of them was you. I’ll be very interested to see if you decide to pursue the idea. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

            • You are definitely invited to share it here in several ways. You can do a guest post, or just a promo, or a cover reveal/release reveal. Whatever works for you. I’m flexible. Email me if you have a preference, and I’ll tell you what I need and when I can schedule it. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

                • One of the purposes of this blog is to help support other authors via some getting more eyes on your work. I do #ShareAReviewDay for that purpose weekly, but I also enjoy having authors share their new releases, covers, and excerpts. When I catch up again, I plan to revive #ExcerptWeek, too, which I used to run two or three times a year. But when you’re ready, let me know, and we’ll see what you need at that time. I’ll be very happy to have you here. 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

            • Poor you and lucky you got treatment quickly… I learnt hard way years ago about popping blisters… Those pesky creatures are the bane of my life here … I am always on ant watch lately it seems to be that time of year again… So small but they can give you a massive bite… Pleased all is well, Marcia ❤️

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thank you, Carol! Yep, if you live with them, you know how awful they are, even when the bites don’t get infected. They itch for the LONGEST time, often more than two weeks on me. I didn’t pop this one on purpose, but in the future, I’ll be extra careful not to ever pop one accidentally, either. Fiends!! Here’s to both of us avoiding them completely in the future. Good luck! 🙂

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                • You need it where those pesky things are we also have massive centipede like things at the moment and boy do they move fast.. Poor you mine don’t itch for too long.. Long enough and the blisters are quite a size… Yes here’s to avoiding the blighters 😊x

                  Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, Marcia! The things you’ll put yourself through to keep us in suspense! (Sorry). I am genuinely sorry about this latest setback and so relieved that you were sensible enough to treat it as a medical emergency – which lymphangitis is. My mother was a nurse and when my otherwise fit brother developed one of those red lines she took him straight to the emegency department. Then, as you say, it was called blood poisoning and It’s one of those danger symptoms that I watch out for now.
    I’m all for you accepting Mae Clair’s bubble for a while. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nope on the bubble. I’d rather risk the occasional IV antibiotic than subject myself to being enclosed in ANYTHING. Claustrophobia trumps fire ants in the horror department for me. 😯

    Blame this whole thing on Darlene. (See above.) She went off and left me unsupervised, and this is what happened! 😀 😀 😀

    Seriously, I’m feeling fine today, and can see a difference in both the infected wound AND the lymphangitis. That part has almost faded away already, yay. So it appears to be responding well to the antibiotics. The hardest thing is keeping my schedule straight. Between my meds, normal & these new temporary ones, and my determination to eat small meals/snacks on a regular schedule so my blood sugar doesn’t drop, and medicating my dog, my iPhone alarm rings all day long! It’s crazy!

    But I did manage to write a bit today, and am still trying to squeeze in a bit more. So, here’s to finishing this WIP, so you can at last find out what happens to all the players. 😀 Thanks for stopping by, Trish. I always love hearing from you! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you’d understand how horrible they are! GAH!! Yeah, I didn’t need a second trip to the ER in 8 days, but I’m so glad I didn’t wait any longer. It’s really coming along nicely already, and hopefully, it will all be healed up soon. Just be sure if you get bitten/stung by one that you don’t pop that blister, or if you do, that you clean it and medicate it. You do NOT want to get one of these infected!

      Oh, for the days when none of us in the south had ever heard of a fire ant! Wretched little things! Thanks for stopping by, and I appreciate your comments! Tomorrow will be better, still! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s the spirit! A few years ago, I was bitten by a horsefly on the forearm. A few days later, it began to itch. Then it turned red. When I got to work, one of my co-workers drew a dotted line around the red area, by afternoon, it had expanded. Another coworker, who is a nurse, marched me over to one of the clinics. The doctor put me on Bactrim and a week later, I developed an allergy to Sulfa drug!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds like a horrible experience all the way around. Sorry you developed that allergy, too. So far as I know, I’m not allergic to any meds (knock wood). Anything with “caine” in the name (novacaine, lidocaine, etc) makes me very, very shaky for a while, but nothing like a true allergy. Which is good, because I have plenty of “regular” allergies, like pollens, dust, cat hairs (in a house with 6 cats), air mold, etc. I don’t need any more. I’m glad your coworker took you to the clinic, though. Bites can be nasty things!

          Liked by 1 person

  10. So sorry you’ve had to go through all this, but hope you’re on the mend now. Thank goodness we don’t have fire ants in the UK (although I have had cellulitis and it’s no fun is it! Looking forward to reading Emissary III!

    Liked by 1 person

    • All things considered, I’m really very lucky. The floor didn’t fracture my skull or give me a brain bleed, and the cellulitis and lymphangitis is responding to the antibiotics, and today, I’m feeling vastly improved. I know it could have been worse. Having said all that, I’m ready for some plain, ol’ ordinary days with no trips to the ER! 😀

      So glad you’re looking forward to The Emissary 3. I’m eager to get going on it just as soon as I finish off WRR4. Hopefully, it will go as smoothly and quickly as the first two did, and I’ll have it out in the spring, and can get back to Riverbend, where I’ve left a certain unidentified character in a family way. Some of my readers are getting antsy to know who it is. 😀 All I have to do is decide, myself! 😀 😀 😀 Thanks for stopping by Hywela! Nice to see you tonight! ❤

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  11. Thanks for the lesson, Marcia. I didn’t know much about fire ants prior to reading about your experience. So sorry that you had to become the guinea pig.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Pete. Always glad to be of service! 😀 Seriously, I’ve had too many fire ant bites to count–hundreds, surely–over the years. This is the first time one’s ever gotten infected, but apparently I was just very lucky, because popping them to drain that fluid tends to make them go away more quickly. Or at least stop the itching. But now I know that it also sets you up for possible infections, even if you don’t do it on purpose. You live long enough, you learn a lot of strange things! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m doing very well now, thanks, Marje. I’ll never be very far away from fire ants as long as I live in Florida. I think they are here to stay, and they are very adaptable. Years ago, the treatment for a fire ant mound was to sprinkle a ring of Amdro in a circle around the entire mound. They would carry it inside as food and even feed it to the queen, killing the entire mound. They now skirt WAY around it, having learned not to touch it or eat it. Vicious and clever, both. A bad combination.

      But I’m almost over my fall and the infection is clearing up, so yay! I do hope I’ll have a bit less drama, especially of the ER kind, for a few weeks now. 😀 ❤

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  12. Holy crap Marsh! You’re an ongoing concern! Bur that is scaryyyyyyyyyy stuff! Glad you were smart enough to get back to the ER. And thanks for the public service announcement, much appreciated. Now get well already! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: More ‘Autumn in Pennsylvania’, photos, the Apostle Paul, and a little about books – Boondock Ramblings

  14. Awful, Marcia. Thank goodness you went off to the ER. Those things look as mean as their bites. I’m sure anyone who lives around fire ants will appreciate the heads up. Glad you’re doing better. Now stay healthy and no more trips to the ER.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Working in the garden. These guys are so prevalent down here, they can have beds anywhere, and pretty much DO. They are sneaky, and you often don’t know you have one (or one hundred) of them on you until the pain starts! I didn’t even feel this bite. Just discovered it when it started itching and I started scratching. 😦 Mostly, you do feel them bite, but somehow I didn’t this time. The only way I know to prevent being bitten by them is to stay away from any and all ant beds–or in our case, little piles of sand appearing between the bricks in our pathways–and to treat the beds as soon as you spot one. But you can never completely eradicate them from your yard without creating a general toxic zone that would kill lots of beneficial insects and endanger birds and other critters, possibly even yourself.

      When the zombie apocalypse comes, fire ants will be right there with them! 😯 😀

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    • Thanks, Teri. It’s awful to think about children getting into them! Needless to say, I truly detest these insects! And like all exotic, invasive species, they don’t have any built-in natural controls in this part of the world, so they are everywhere, and still on the move. GAH!!! The good news is, I took my bandage off today for the first time. I still have a discolored wound, but it is healing up and no longer needs as much protection, unless I’m doing something more involved than sitting at my computer. And all the red streaks went away the first day. That IV really got the medicine into my system in a hurry, to very good results. So, I’m glad I knew I needed to get treatment THAT day, too. 😀

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