Middle school football player dies from ant bites on field

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CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – We all know fire ants are bad in Texas. But did you know they can “kill” you?!

12-year-old Cameron Espinosa died this week in Corpus Christi from fire ant bites he received on the football field. He and his Haas Middle School teammates were huddled up at halftime when Cameron started screaming, “Ants! Ants!”

A coach tried spraying the biting bugs off Cameron with a water bottle, but minutes later, the kid passed out and collapsed on the field. He was whisked away by ambulance to the hospital but never recovered.

His teammate Jimmy Cedillo remembers, “He was a heck of a football player, and at least he passed away doing what he loved– playing football.”

Like many of us, Cameron wasn’t aware he was allergic to fire ants. Research shows up to 16% of us are. But there are clear signs to let you know when an ant bite means real danger, according to Houston’s UT Health Medical School’s Dr. Dat Tran, “When you’re starting to develop not only the swelling at the site of the ant bite, but also some difficulty breathing, some tightness in your throat, some light-headedness, some dizziness, you feel your heart racing — it’s racing because your blood pressure is dropping.”

Schoolmates have been wearing Cameron’s number, 66, to remember their friend, and the football field was closed until it could be treated for ants. But the family’s lawyer says that’s not enough and maybe he’s right. In Texas, medics are required at high school football games but not at middle school ones.

And only medical personnel can give a shot from an Epi pen (epinephrine shot), something Doctor Tran says could make all the difference with an allergic reaction, “All it is is adrenaline in your body. You will feel a faster heart rate and nervousness, but you’re allowing time for you to receive medical care.”

Maybe Cameron’s death will spur schools here to get more folks approved to administer Epi pens, so a fire ant bite doesn’t have to be a death sentence for another kid.