“Bee” Careful if You’re Allergic to Pollen

Bee pollen supplement may cause anaphylaxis in people allergic to airborne pollen

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Pollen allergies cause many to sniffle away the fine summer weather. They may also foretell bad reactions to bee pollen supplement.

Researchers looked at a recent case study of anaphylaxis, or severe allergic reaction. The subject was a woman with a pollen allergy, and researchers were able to trace her reaction to bee pollen supplements.

Due to several similar cases, people with pollen allergies may want to consult their doctor before using any bee products..

"Pollen allergy sufferers should speak with a doctor before taking bee pollen."

A pair of Canadian doctors wrote this case study. Lead author was Amanda Jagdis, MD, from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, was assisted by Gordon Sussman, MD, from the Allergy and Clinical Immunology division of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and the University of Toronto.

A case study like this one is an investigation of one particular case of a condition which others doctors can often learn from by applying the lessons to situations with other people.

Due to this woman’s previous history of pollen allergies, which has been linked to an allergy to bee pollen, Jagdis and Sussman concluded that bee pollen was a likely cause of the anaphylaxis she experienced.

Though there are previous studies that have linked pollen allergy with bee pollen allergy, this link is not absolute.

Not all people who have pollen allergies will experience severe allergic reactions from bee pollen, but the risks are something they should be aware of before using these kinds of supplements.

The patient, a 30-year-old Canadian woman, was referred to the St. Michael's allergy clinic after the resolution of an anaphylactic reaction. She had just taken bee pollen as a supplement for the first time, after which she began to experience hives, shortness of breath and other symptoms of severe allergic reaction.

The emergency was resolved by giving her an IV of epinephrine, diphenhydramine and fluids. Jagdis and Sussman conducted an interview with the woman, confirming that taking bee pollen supplements was new to her.

Based on previous studies, Jagdis and Sussman concluded that this was likely the cause of her reaction.

They gave her counseling on potential substances that may cause other allergic reactions for her and, due to the life-threatening nature of her reaction, a prescription for an auto-injector of epinephrine.

The previous studies concerning this subject have found, using skin-allergy testing, that people who are allergic to bee pollen are often allergic to airborne pollen as well.

Airborne pollen, usually from Aster family plants like goldenrod and ragweed, is pollen from plants that do not require insects for pollination.

Every batch of bee pollen is different, with some having more airborne pollen present than others due to the environments from which they came from. Therefore, the risk is not the same from person to person.

Some people may not experience any reaction until they change to a different bee pollen product that might be higher in airborne pollen than what they had previously used.

According to Jagdis and Sussman, people with airborne pollen allergies should  be aware of the risks and should discuss them with their physician or primary healthcare provider.

This individual case study was published online May 22 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Gordon Sussman is a consultant for Pfizer and has received grants from Novartis and CSL Behring, as well as being a paid lecturer for the Ontario Society of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. No other competing interests besides these were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 2, 2012
Last Updated:
October 1, 2012