A new report in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology shows that as many as five percent of those living in the United States are allergic to stinging insects like bees and wasps. The number of Americans living with the potentially life-threatening allergy is over a million, and the number is on the rise, with most being completely unaware they have an allergy at all.

The majority of people figure out they have an allergy to insect stings when they get stung and experience swelling, hives or difficulty breathing. Unfortunately, with severe allergic reactions, there may not be time to react, as the throat can actually close up.

If allergy testing determines that an insect sting allergy exists, immunotherapy may be a potential option for reducing serious reactions. Immunotherapy involves controlled doses of the allergen being injected. In allergy shots for insect bites, a small amount of the protein from the insect is used. In traditional immunotherapy, the dosage is increased weekly until a maintenance dose is reached, then shots are only needed monthly. Rush immunotherapy is an option for some allergies, and shortens the length of treatment considerably.

According to the study, less than two percent of people have a life-threatening reaction after receiving the immunotherapy treatments.

Ramie Tritt, M.D., President, Atlanta ENT