Can You Be Allergic to Honey?

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Beloved by millions as a sweet, delicious food, honey is also praised for possible heath benefits. However, this raw food made by bees can cause problems for a small group of people. Can you be allergic to honey? Yes, it is possible. Though a rare occurrence overall, understanding the symptoms of honey allergies and potential risk factors is important information to know.

Woman exhibits symptoms of sneezing and being allergic to honey.

Once you understand more about the contents of different kinds of honey, the chance for allergies is easier to understand. But, these conditions are different from other bee-related allergies such as stings etc.

Honey as a Raw Food

Honey bees make honey primarily from the nectar of millions of blooming flowers. They then store it in the beehive for use during the cold season.

Chemically, honey is made up of mostly sugars but it does contain small bits of pollen and other proteins. The plant world produces a wide variety of types of pollen. 

Raw honey vs regular honey will contain even more bits of pollen and possibly more nutrition as well – though some debate the validity of this. In any case, the types of pollen proteins found in your jar of honey can vary greatly.

Some members of the population as more sensitive to certain substances than others. You may ingest something that causes irritation and a reaction, yes even an allergic reaction to honey.

Honey flowing into a glass jar with a bag of bee pollen.

Allergic Reactions

We must remember that anyone can be allergic to almost anything. Allergies are defined by a reaction of our bodies to a substance-that may be harmless to others.

Millions of people in the United States live with food allergies. They are unable to consume certain foods without triggering a reaction of their immune system. Rashes, swelling, and respiratory symptoms are common.

Usually, these reactions are mild and only slightly irritating. But for some people, an allergy can be life threatening.

Even though it is uncommon, someone might experience an allergic reaction to honey. The specific proteins and other substances in honey may trigger a response in someone who is sensitive to them.

But, do not confuse a honey allergy with situations where someone who is allergic to bee or wasp stings. This is a very different type of response and considered a food allergy.

Why are People Allergic to Honey?

Having a true honey allergy is rare. Less than .001% of the general population experiences a negative reaction to bee honey. 

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During the process of converting nectar into honey, bees add enzymes secreted from glands in their body. The primary allergens in honey are these glandular proteins and bits of pollen.

Symptoms

Here are some of the most common reactions experience by someone who may be allergic to honey. Many are similar to many pollen allergies.

  • rash
  • hives
  • itchy throat
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • gastronomical issues – nausea, diarrhea

Reactions are normally caused by someone consuming honey but some people have skin sensitivity too.

If you are concerned, before using homemade body products such as : honey salt scrubs or honey goat milk soap, try it on a small area of skin first.

Severe Reactions

A severe allergic reaction to honey (or any allergen) includes the possibility of anaphylaxis shock. If this is suspected, seek immediate emergency assistance. This is life threatening.

  • difficult breathing
  • trouble speaking
  • fainting
  • tongue swelling

Risks of Honey

There are some folks who may be more likely to experience a honey allergy. This list includes anyone with a family history of honey allergies, suffering from other allergies, has underlying health problems or even other insect allergies.

If you have a compromised immune system or any known allergy to honey – consult your physician on the best way to proceed.

Infant Botulism

In many raw foods, there is a chance that spore-forming bacteria called Clostridium botulinum may be present.

Although rare, this possibility is why infants under the age of 1 (or as instructed by your doctor) should not consume honey.

As children grow a bit older, their immune and digestive systems mature – making it safe to eat a wider range of foods.

Blood test in tube for allergy.

Testing and Treatment

For the vast majority of the population, there is no worry about allergies to honey, beeswax or other bee products. But, if you think you may have a problem – there are some things you can do.

Contact your doctor and seek help from a professional allergist. There are many different tests used to diagnose an allergy – especially a food allergy. These include elimination diets, blood tests and skin pricks. 

Treatment may mean avoiding all consumption of suspected foods or taking antihistamines for mild issues.

FAQs

What are the symptoms of a honey allergy?

They vary from person to person but honey allergy symptoms range from nasal congestion, hives, rashes, etc to tummy issues.

How is a honey allergy diagnosed?

Seek help from your health care professionals. They can test for honey allergies using blood tests and skin pricks to checks for a reaction.

If I am allergic to bees, does this mean I am allergic to honey?

No, not necessarily. Bee venom has a very different chemical composition. However, there is a small risk that you could be allergic to honey since you are already experiencing an allergen response.

Can a honey allergy be cured?

In many cases, the allergy response can not be cured. But, if the reaction is due to pollen, allergy immunology shots may help treat the symptoms.

What is an allergy to honey called?

A honey allergy is primarily a type of food allergy that reacts due to consuming honey. But, some will also be skin sensitive.

If you are allergic to beeswax are you allergic to honey?

Not necessarily, both beeswax and honey are products from the hive but they different greatly in composition. Beeswax also contains bee propolis and other substances that are not usually found in honey.

Finally

While honey remains a delicious, safe food for most people, there will be some who experience an allergic reaction. If you suspect a problem after consuming honey, seek help from your medical team. Knowledge and awareness are the key to staying healthy.

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