Honey as an allergen
Honey is a natural sweetener made by honeybees using nectar from flowering plants. Though mostly made of sugar, honey also contains amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants. These ingredients make honey a natural healing treatment. It’s a common remedy for coughs.
While honey has some natural health benefits, it’s also possible for some people to develop an allergic reaction to it. When honey is produced, it can possibly be contaminated with bee pollen and pollen from other plants and trees, including:
- other plants in the area
If you’re allergic to pollen, it’s possible that you may be allergic to some types of honey. In many cases, this makes pollen the allergen, rather than the honey itself.
Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. However, it’s common pollen and other plant allergens to contaminate honey. Symptoms from a honey allergy may resemble common pollen allergy symptoms, such as:
- runny nose
- watery eyes
- itchy throat
- bumps on the skin
Symptoms may vary depending on the severity of your allergy. Eating honey or skin coming into contact with honey can trigger an allergic reaction.
In more severe cases, symptoms may include:
If you begin to experience irregular symptoms after consuming honey, schedule a visit with your doctor. As with many allergens, not receiving treatment can cause serious complications.
Honey is safe in many cases. However, it’s not recommended that babies younger than 12 months eat honey. Honey has the potential to carry the bacteria Clostridium. It’s found in dirt and dust. It’s harmless to older children and adults because their immune and digestive systems have matured.
If young children ingest Clostridium, the bacteria can multiply in their intestines and affect their nervous system. This condition is known as infant botulism. Though rare, it can cause life-threatening complications. These include muscle weakness and breathing issues. It can also be fatal.
Other symptoms from this condition include:
- weak cry
- decreased movement
- difficulty swallowing
- poor feeding
- flat facial expression
Infant botulism can be treated, but it’s important for babies to receive treatment quickly. Doctors recommend not introducing infants to honey until they’re older than 12 months. If your infant begins to show any of these irregular symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
You can treat your symptoms with a common over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl. If your symptoms worsen or don’t improve after an hour, seek immediate medical attention.
An allergic reaction to honey may also be indication of an underlying allergy to pollen or another substance.
If you’re unsure whether you’re allergic to honey, the best treatment is to avoid it. Discuss your symptoms and concerns with your doctor to prevent any adverse reactions.