Bites and stings

bites and stings

There are many Australian species that bite or sting, such as insects, bees, wasps, ants, mosquitos, ticks, scorpions, caterpillars, centipedes, spiders, snakes and seas creatures. Some bites and stings may be harmless and not require treatment, others may be venomous or cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic) and require medical treatment promptly.

Allergies to venoms from stinging insects (bees, wasps and ants) are one of the most common causes of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) in Australia. Symptoms include an all over rash, swelling of tongue or throat, trouble breathing, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting or a drop in blood pressure (shock).

Anaphylaxis from stinging insect allergy results in an average of three deaths per year in Australia. Those with a known allergy should be seen by a medical specialist (clinical immunology/allergy specialist) to develop a strategy for managing subsequent bites or stings and have an adrenaline auto injector (e.g. EpiPen) readily available to treat anaphylaxis.

In the event of a venomous bite or sting –

  • Apply pressure immobilisation and bandage the wound with a firm elasticised bandage – working upwards, keeping the person calm and immobile until medical help arrives
  • Do not apply a tourniquet
  • Do not remove the bandage at any stage and mark the bandage at the site of the bite or sting. This will enable medical staff to locate the site for inspection without removing the bandage.
  • Seek medical assistance immediately
  • Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance in an emergency.

If the person collapses or stops breathing, you will need to apply CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) until medical help arrives.

If needing more information call Victorian Poisons Information Centre call 13 11 26 – seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Important Note: Applying a firm pressure immobilisation to a Red Back spider bite can cause more damage to the tissue around the bite site. It is recommended to apply a cold pack to help with pain. Ensure that ice doesn’t come into direct contact to the skin for more than 20mins and seek medical help.

For more information on bites and stings – first aid visit Better Health Channel

References used for this bites and stings page

More information:

Victorian Poisons Information Centre
Bites and stings

Australian Museum
Insect bites and stings

Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
Insect bites and stings in children

Better Health Channel
Applying CPR

Victorian Poisons Information Centre (VPIC)
Call 13 11 26 – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or visit their website

Clinical care:

Austin Health
Pressure immobilisation technique

Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Research & reviews:

ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy Limited
Allergic reaction to bites and stings

Medical Journal of Australia
Anaphylaxis to stings and bites

Fast facts:

Bites and stings

  • Many Australian species can bite or sting, some maybe harmless, other may be venomous or cause allergic reactions
  • If you have a known to have a severe allergy to the bite or sting of a species – have a management plan.
  • Don’t use tourniquets, cut the puncture site or try to suck out the venom.
  • Seek medical assistance immediately
  • Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance in an emergency.

Last updated: 6th May, 2020