Can Honey Help Relieve Allergies?
Every spring, the concept of using honey to treat allergies comes up. Inevitably, one of my friends will post on social media asking other moms for ideas to treat their child's allergies. And they will be flooded with "helpful" comments about how local honey can treat allergies.
I need to learn to stay off social media because I have difficulty holding my tongue! As a long-time public health professional and Certified Asthma Educator, I feel ethically bound to jump in and say, "Okay, hold on a minute. Let's chat about this!"
I understand that people like to be helpful - and it can be beneficial to learn from others, especially when all other options seem to fail. But, there are many unhelpful and unproven home remedies being touted as allergy cures.
Debunking the honey myth
A common myth out there is that you can eat local honey, and it will work to desensitize your body to allergens naturally. If only it were that simple! But, it doesn't work this way. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) says that honey does not help with seasonal allergies.1
Bees collect pollen and nectar from brightly colored flowers. However, most hay fever is caused by tree pollen in the spring, grass pollen in the summer, and weeds in the fall. So the pollen that bees collect isn't the same pollen many people are allergic to. When bees make honey, pollen changes to protein. When you ingest and digest honey, your stomach's enzymes break down pollen, and there is no longer enough to become desensitized to pollen.1
Proven allergy remedies
As a fellow mom living with allergies and asthma, who raised 3 adult children with allergies and asthma, here's what worked for us. Hint: it does not include honey!
1. Visit an allergist
It helps to know exactly what you are allergic to. An allergist can perform a special blood test or skin tests to determine your environmental allergens. All my kids had allergy tests, and they discovered the type of pollen that would leave them sneezing and wheezing. Knowing their specific allergens, they would keep an eye on the pollen count and avoid being outside on days when their particular pollen was elevated.
2. Find the right allergy medicine for your body
Each body is unique, so you may need a different allergy medicine than a friend or family member. My family uses different combinations of allergy pills and nasal sprays. We were all to "feel" which pills and nose sprays worked best for us.
3. Consider allergy shots
Sometimes, allergies are so severe that they can't be controlled by medication alone. My kids would be on the maximum dose of allergy meds and would still sneeze 30 times in a row (not kidding, I counted.)
They would sneeze all day long and all night. Then it would trigger an asthma attack. We knew our only other option was allergy shots (immunotherapy). Unlike honey, allergy shots can desensitize your body to allergens. It's not a quick fix. You must go to an allergist for weekly shots for 3 to 5 years. But slowly and steadily, your body will start to become desensitized.
4. Take precautions inside the house
We do not open our windows in spring and summer. I would love to have the cool evening breeze flow through my house, but I know that the pollen will come along for the ride.
We also take our shoes off at the front door to avoid tracking pollen through the house. And we shower before bed. Otherwise, we roll around in bed all night, spreading pollen all over our sheets. Then we wake up with a scratchy throat, sneezing, and red, swollen eyes.
Honey might help if you have a scratchy throat, but it won't help treat your allergies. Sorry to burst your bubble!
Have you ever had to change holiday plans due to you or your loved ones allergies?