A woman has died after she accidentally stepped on a hill of fire ants near her home, her family has said.
Cathy Weed, who lived in Lawrenceville, Georgia, suffered a severe allergic reaction after stepping on the pile of fire ants on June 24, according to local news outlets. She died before she could receive treatment.
Fire Ant Stings Known to Induce Life-Threatening Allergic Reactions
Fire ants are a type of stinging ant that usually live in mounds of mud in the ground. They can be found in several U.S. states and can sometimes become invasive. Fire ants are one of the most common types of ants in Georgia, but are not native.
While fire ants do bite, for most people the pain is far less than that of a bee sting, and usually just results in swelling and redness.
But for people with a fire ant allergy, stings can cause a life-threatening situation called anaphylaxis—a severe allergic reaction that can occur within minutes or even seconds of being exposed to an allergen.
These allergic reactions need to be treated straight away, usually with a hormone called epinephrine. This can usually be carried around in an epipen.
Weed Previously Suffered a Similar Allergic Reaction in 2018
This isn't the first time Weed suffered an allergic reaction from a fire ant bite. In 2018, Weed took to Facebook to share how a fire ant allergy landed her in the hospital emergency room and warned others with similar allergies to keep their epipen refills stocked up.
"I am highly allergic to fire ants as of about 3 years ago. I carry an epipen with me every where I go. Over the last 3 years, I have had to use an epipen 6 times. The 6th time being this Saturday night. Unfortunately, I made the very bad mistake of not keeping up with refills from my doctor, and the epipen I used on Saturday night was expired by about a year," Weed wrote.
"This epipen did not work, and my very sweet friends had to rush me to the ER to be treated. I was covered head to toe in hives, vomiting, full on panic attack, I felt my ear canals and throat swelling in a matter of minutes from the bite. Having an allergy like this is no joke. It is scary. It is life threatening," she continued. "With each bite I get, if I don't have an epipen near by the reaction gets worse."