Although honey is often used as natural treatment for a variety of ailments, some individuals can develop an allergic reaction to it. The chances of having a honey allergy increases in those who are allergic or sensitive to plant pollens and bee sting venom, as shown by research carried out by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. An allergic reaction to honey varies in severity and symptoms, depending on the individual and type of honey. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune mechanism is triggered to recognize the innocuous allergen as harmful and reacts to protect the body against it. An allergic reaction to honey can be initiated by eating it or even skin contact with it in some cases.
Skin is commonly involved in an allergic reaction, and the individual can develop general itching all over the body with the formation of reddish, swollen patches that subside after a few hours, leaving no scarring or effects. The University of Maryland Medical Center also lists hives, which are raised, red bumps on the skin, as skin symptoms of allergic reactions to honey.
Vomiting and Diarrhea
An allergic reaction causes the immune system to produce chemicals called IgE antibodies by the white blood cells. The antibodies rapidly detect the ingested honey as a harmful substance in the body and cause an immune response. The Cleveland Clinic lists gastrointestinal allergy symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
A runny and itchy nose with constant sneezing, wheezing and some difficulty in breathing are symptoms of allergies due to pollen from honey. This mild allergic reaction to honey and other allergens is caused by a substance called histamine that is released by white blood cells and leads to dilated and leaking blood vessels in the nose and lungs. These allergy symptoms may progress to more severe forms of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis in some people, and produce life-threatening symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightening and more difficulty in breathing because of the constriction of the airways, requiring immediate emergency treatment.
Noreen Kassem is a hospital doctor and a medical writer. Her articles have been featured in "Women's Health," "Nutrition News," "Check Up" and "Alive Magazine." Kassem also covers travel, books, fitness, nutrition, cooking and green living.