Bee, wasp sting deaths on the rise

Posted at 10:05 AM, Sep 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-02 10:38:18-04

(CBS News) -- For most people, bees and wasps are just a nuisance during this time of year. But stings are becoming a deadly threat for some who may not know they have allergies.

Carolyn Taylor said some wasps almost killed her 10 years ago while she was rock climbing with her husband.

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

Taylor, who had no idea she was allergic, is one of a growing number of people with allergies to insect stings.

A report  in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows 5 percent of people in the US are now affected.

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

In fact, blood and skin tests showed Taylor is allergic to yellow jackets and yellow and white hornets.

Corn recommended what is called venom immunotherapy or allergy shots once a week to reduce her 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 Corn.

The report shows less than 2 percent of people have a life-threatening reaction after receiving immunotherapy.

Taylor said when she was stung again after her shots she had virtually no reaction.

Taylor said knowing she is protected means she can enjoy the outdoors.