Imagine lying in your bed, unable to move or summon help when suddenly hundreds of red imported fire ants sting you repeatedly. Every summer this nightmare happens in a nursing home or hospital in the southern part of the country. Sometimes the results are lethal. So with summer in full swing and the ants making their way into other parts of the country, I thought I’d call your attention to their threat.

Red imported fire ant stings are painful, but for immobile, cognitively impaired seniors, their stings can be lethal. These ants are aggressive and attack en masse by the hundreds or thousands. Each ant can sting multiple times. Their venom can cause anaphylactic shock within minutes of their stings. People with heart conditions or diabetes may be more vulnerable to the venom.

Deaths usually occur because nursing home personnel fail to check on patients as often as they should or fail to notice or remedy infestations. If your loved one is in a nursing home or hospital, look for these ants. They’re easy to spot because they travel together in trails. If you find a mound in your loved one’s yard, contact an exterminator immediately.

Red imported fire ants have so far infested Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Puerto Rico.