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," she said. "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 5 percent of people in the U.S. 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. Corn recommended what's called venom immunotherapy or allergy shots once a week to reduce Carolyn'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 3-5 years," Corn said.
The report shows less than 2 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," she said.
She says knowing she's protected means she can enjoy the outdoors.
Some research has suggested that patients made need to get allergy shots for longer than 3-5 years, so Taylor has actually started her treatment again.
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