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Providing NHS services

Ant stings and bites

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Ant Stings and Bites

Out of the fifty species of ant that can be found in the UK, the six most common are: the Common Black Garden Ant, Yellow Meadow Ant, Red Wood Ant, Formica Sanguinea, Myrmica and Tetramorium Caespitum. You may find ants inside the house, particularly in summer, as the search for food often takes them indoors. More typically, you will find ants in the garden.

The black garden ant, which is the most common in the UK, doesn’t bite or sting; wood, red and flying types occasionally do.


Stings and bites from ant species in the UK are generally considered harmless. You may feel a pinch and see a pale pink mark develop on your skin.

There are three types of reactions you may have following a bite or sting by an ant.

 Mild Symptoms

The most typical reaction to an ant bite in the UK would be minor symptoms that would give you little to no discomfort and dissipate within a few hours or days. The common symptoms you may find are:

  • A ‘pinch’ sensation and pale pink mark
  • Pinkness or redness in the affected area
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Irritation


 Secondary Infection

Continued swelling of the area a day or two following the bite could be a sign of a secondary infection. If you experience persistent pain in the affected area, muscle aches, flu-like symptoms or fever, you should speak Ahmeys for advice and see a doctor.

Allergic reaction symptoms

In the UK, insects that cause the most systemic allergic reactions are bees and wasps. Ants with venom strong enough to cause any moderate to severe reaction are not found in the UK. However, rapid onset of any of the following symptoms after an ant sting or bite could indicate a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:

  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • Facial swelling
  • Additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A weak, rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Additional possible symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain


In most cases, ant stings and bites do not require a visit to the doctor. In the unusual event that a sting or a bite causes symptoms of a severe reaction, you will need immediate emergency care.


Ant stings and bites from species native to the UK do not usually require medical treatment. Any mild discomfort can be treated by the patient themselves in the ways shown below.

First aid for ant stings and bites:

  • Wash the affected area gently with soap and water
  • Place an ice pack or a cold compress (cloth or flannel cooled with cold water) to reduce any swelling
  • If possible, elevate or raise the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Avoid scratching the area to reduce the risk of introducing infection

Causes/ Prevention

Ants will only bite or sting when feeling threatened. They may attack if their nest is disturbed or to protect their colony.

  • Avoid disturbing ant hills
  • Make sure to get rid of any food or vegetation inside the house that may attract ants indoors
Faheem Ahmed

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158 Oxford Road
Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2LA
Contact us at:
01865 689 149

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