Information updates

Insect venom allergy – are you prepared?

21 September 2020

  • With summer fast approaching in Australia and New Zealand, it is important that people with allergy to stinging insects (bees, wasps or Jack Jumper ants) are prepared.
  • Insect venom allergies are a common cause of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), that can be life threatening.
  • Symptoms of anaphylaxis to 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).
  • Ticks (which are arachnids rather than insects) also cause allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Ticks are mainly located in coastal regions of mid Eastern Australia.
  • People who are at risk of anaphylaxis to venom are usually advised to seek urgent medical help if stung or bitten and to have their adrenaline (epinephrine) autoinjector/s (e.g. EpiPen®) readily available to treat anaphylaxis. It is important to note that there are no current supply issues for EpiPen© or EpiPen® Jr in Australia and New Zealand.
  • People who are at risk of anaphylaxis to venom should be referred to a clinical immunology/allergy specialist for further tests, advice and treatment options. 
  • 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.
  • Venom immunotherapy (desensitisation) is an effective treatment for severe allergies to bee and wasp stings. The treatment usually takes 3-5 years and rebates are available in Australia and New Zealand. It is important to note that there are no current supply issues for venom immunotherapy products in Australia and New Zealand. Referral to a clinical immunology/allergy specialist is recommended to initiate venom immunotherapy. These specialists are listed on the ASCIA website www.allergy.org.au/patients/locate-a-specialist 
  • Venom 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.

For more information visit www.allergy.org.au/patients/insect-allergy-bites-and-stings

Information about venom allergy and immunotherapy for health professionals is available at 

www.allergy.org.au/hp/papers

www.allergy.org.au/members/insect-allergy

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