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Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005 Oct;95(4):344-9.

Personal protection measures against fire ant attacks.

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Mississippi Department of Health, General Environmental Services, Jackson 39215, USA.



Fire ant stings lead to significant morbidity and mortality each year. Virtually no information exists in the scientific literature about the effectiveness of personal protection measures against these ants.


To quantify the level of protection from ant stings by socks and cotton tights and to evaluate the efficacy of repellents and other chemicals in preventing stings.


Commercially obtained infant socks were fitted on a plastic doll's foot, which was touched to fire ant mounds in a series of controlled experiments. Socks and cotton tights were stretched over a human finger and placed in a fire ant mound to test the ability of ants to sting through fabric. Assays were developed to screen chemical substances for their ability to stop or prevent fire ant stings.


Socks of any type reduced the number of fire ants that reached the skin and delayed the time required for ants to reach the skin above the sock level. Fire ants were unable to sting through all socks tested. Ants successfully stung both paper towels and human skin, regardless of chemical substance or repellent applied to them.


Socks provide some degree of protection from fire ant stings; therefore, children living in fire ant-infested areas should wear them. Fire ants appear unable to sting through many commercially available socks. Cotton tights may be useful in protecting the lower extremities of children. Fire ants are not deterred from stinging by a wide variety of insect repellents and chemical substances.

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