Allergic reactions to fire ant bites could lead to death

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A warning about a deadly bite. Fire ant bites recently led to the deaths of a Texas middle schooler and a 65-year-old Georgia woman. You might think you know what they look like, but fire ants aren't just red. They can be black too.

You may not know you're allergic until after you've been bitten.

"We were so afraid every time he walked out the door," said Abby Caputo talking about her son.

The fear that Caputo once felt was due to her two boys Max and Gus being severely allergic to fire ants. An allergy that many people don't realize they have until they're bitten.

"Fire ants are very common in the Lowcountry," said Dr. Andrew Davidson."On average about half of people will be stung every year."

And while most people will be okay, for some it can turn into an allergic reaction that could be fatal. Max and Gus found out they were allergic to ants on two separate occasions and their symptoms did not show up until hours after being bitten.

Dr. Davidson says normal symptoms after being bitten include swelling and itching along with a bump at the site.  But, if you see hives in other areas of your body,wheezing, shortness of breath or cramping, your body is having an allergic reaction and you need medical help.

Dr. Davidson says for those that are allergic he says there is help, and it comes in the form of several rounds of allergy shots or imunotherapy. Those shots have made a world of difference for Caputo and her sons.

Every year there are about 40 deaths nationwide from insect stings. Dr. Davidson says you don't have to risk being bitten to find out if you're allergic to ants. There's a test you can take to find out.

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