"You got a concentrated dose," she told me. "Normally people don't have such strong reactions to bee pollen."
In developed, Western countries, 15 to 20 percent of adults suffer from the most benign form of allergy, rhinitis (a runny, stuffy nose), while roughly 2 percent have a venom allergy. Annually in the U.S., 40 to 100 people die from a stinging insect allergy.
Taylor recommends that anyone who suspects he may have a food, medicine, or stinging insect allergy see an allergist. For a food or stinging insect allergy, she also recommends carrying an Epipen (a pre-measured shot of epinephrine), wearing a medic alert bracelet that identifies the allergy, and programming "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) numbers into a cell phone so that medics know who to contact. Taylor also recommends carrying Benadryl Allergy Quick Dissolve Strips, the kind that can be placed inside the cheek, so that if someone is suffering a reaction, he or she won't choke on a pill or aspirate on liquid. Finally, she recommends creating an allergic reaction plan so that you and everyone around you will quickly react in case of an emergency.
During my bee pollen episode, I made my second almost-fatal mistake of the day by taking the wait-and-see approach.
"With all my patients I would rather they call 911 and go to the ER and be told it's passing, rather than have the outcome be worse," Taylor says. "If you think ‘I think things are going to be ok,' your throat may close off completely and then you'll need a tracheostomy. You don't want your symptoms to progress to that."