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New Study Shows 5% Of People In U.S. Allergic To Insect Stings

(Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

(Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)

CBS Pittsburgh (con't)

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PITTSBURGH (CBS) — For most people, bees and wasps are just a nuisance.

But for more than a million Americans, stings from those insects can be deadly.

Carolyn Taylor loves spending time outdoors, but 10 years ago while she was rock climbing with her husband wasps almost killed her.

“I got three or four stings,” said Taylor. “I was hives everywhere and my blood pressure dropped.”

Taylor had no idea she was allergic. She’s one of a growing number of people with allergies to insect stings.

A new report in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology shows five percent of people in the United States are now affected.

“Their throat can actually close up,” said Dr. Beth Eve Corn, of Mount Sinai Medical Center. “One can have difficulty breathing, lose consciousness and in the worst case scenario die.”

Blood and skin tests showed Taylor is allergic to yellow jackets and yellow and white hornets.

Dr. Corn recommended what’s called venom immunotherapy or allergy shots once a week to reduce Taylor’s chances of another serious reaction. The shots contain protein from the insect, helping the person with an allergy build up a tolerance.

“It increases every week until you get up to a maintenance dose, and once you are up to maintenance dose you come in once a month for about three to five years,” said Dr. Corn.

The report shows less than two percent of people have a life-threatening reaction after receiving immunotherapy. Taylor was stung again after her shots.

“I had absolutely no reaction, just a little bit and it really felt good to know I wasn’t going to die from this little bug,” said Taylor.

She says knowing she’s protected means she can enjoy the outdoors.

Some research has suggested that patients may need to get allergy shots for longer than three to five years.

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