Bee Venom Shortage Puts Severely Allergic At Risk

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the temperature rises and kids get out of school, we head outdoors to play, get a little sunshine and share time with our six-legged friends. Unfortunately, they don’t always want to share their space, and we end up getting stung.

That happened to Carolyn Taylor when a wasp almost killed her.

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

Taylor is one of a growing number of people with severe allergies to insect stings. A recent study found 5 percent of people in the U.S. are now affected, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

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

For patients such as Taylor, doctors often recommend what’s called venom immunotherapy — essentially allergy shots using tiny amounts of purified bee venom to desensitize an allergic person to a sting.

“Probably one of the things that allergists can do best, we can actually pretty much cure venom allergies,” said Dr. Sandra Hong, an allergist at the Cleveland Clinic.

But a new report says that a shortage of that purified bee venom extract has put some patients in jeopardy.

“There are two different companies that actually supplied the world, and one of them had actually closed for reasons unknown,” Hong said.

Until the other company catches up to demand, allergists are following certain recommendations to extend the available supply of venom.

“We’ve actually extended the different intervals for when we give patients their shots,” Hong said. “We’ve actually tried to cut down when we can in individuals.”

Anyone who’s allergic should still carry an EpiPen to rescue them should they get stung.

Allergic people should also practice avoidance. Grilling, eating or gardening outside is risky. Wear shoes outside to avoid stepping on stingers.

The good news is that as another supplier comes back online, the venom shortage should ease later this year.

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