Insect and tick allergy
- Most allergic reactions to insect venom from stings or bites result in mild or moderate symptoms such as localised itch and swellings, that usually settle within a few days.
- However, allergies to stinging insect venoms are the most common cause of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) in Australia, resulting in an average of three deaths per year. Stinging insects include bees, wasps and Jack Jumper ants. Insect bites are a less common cause of anaphylaxis than insect stings.
- Symptoms of anaphylaxis to insect venom include an all over rash, swelling of tongue or throat, trouble breathing, stomach (abdominal) pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and a drop in blood pressure (shock). Anyone who has had any of these symptoms after an insect sting or bite should be referred to a clinical immunology/allergy specialist.
- Allergy testing using skin or blood tests may be ordered by your doctor to help confirm or exclude insect allergy. This will help to select treatments and measures to treat and prevent allergic reactions to insects.
- Local allergic reactions to insect bites (such as itchy bites to mosquitoes, midges and March flies) can be large and uncomfortable. However, bites are a less common cause of anaphylaxis than insect stings.
- Ticks (which are arachnids rather than insects) also bite and can cause allergic reactions. Ticks are mainly located in coastal regions of mid Eastern Australia.
- Allergen immunotherapy (desensitisation) injections can help to switch off allergy over time. This is effective treatment for severe allergies to bee and wasp stings. The duration of treatment is usually 3-5 years and rebates are available in Australia and New Zealand. Allergen immunotherapy is also available for Jack Jumper ant (in limited centres) but is not yet available for treating allergic reactions triggered by ticks or other species of ants and wasps.
- People at risk of anaphylaxis to insects or ticks are usually advised to seek urgent medical help if stung or bitten and to have their adrenaline (epinephrine) autoinjector/s readily available to treat anaphylaxis.
For more information visit www.allergy.org.au/patients/insect-allergy-bites-and-stings
© ASCIA 2018
ASCIA is the peak professional body of clinical immunology/allergy specialists in Australia and New Zealand
Postal address: PO Box 450 Balgowlah NSW 2093 Australia
This document has been developed and peer reviewed by ASCIA members and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner. Development of this document is not funded by any commercial sources and is not influenced by commercial organisations.
Content updated November 2018