Tampa Bay area allergy sufferers believe in the benefits of honey

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Peak allergy season is here through mid-April, and those who suffer from allergies are pretty miserable.

Wendy Foster says she took allergy medications daily for seven or eight years. But now, instead of misery, her relief comes from her back yard. After a hive of bees infested her family’s boat, Wendy’s husband, Kyle, decided to become a beekeeper, and produce local honey. He joined the Hillsborough Beekeeper Association, and has nearly a dozen bee boxes in his back yard, each housing up to 40,000 bees.

“I’ve always wanted to raise bees. It’s just something I’ve wanted to do. My wife also has allergies and we decided that going ahead and moving forward with keeping bees could help her,” says Kyle.

The theory is that honey contains pollen, and consuming it helps you adapt to allergens, thus lessening symptoms.

However Dr. Richard Lockey, a professor of health, medicine, pediatrics and public health at the University of South Florida Division of Allergy and Immunology, says allergy-inducing pollen comes from oak trees, and the pollen is carried for miles by the wind, not by bees.

“Bees pollinate flowers in orange trees and other blooming trees,” Dr. Lockey said. “Those pollens don’t get in the air, so it doesn’t make any sense just from the beginning to think that honey is going to help with your allergies.”

Dr. Lockey says that relief from honey, Apple Cider Vinegar, which is said to reduce mucous, and herbal supplements including nettle leaf, are merely a placebo effect.

“Home remedies are not going to hurt you, most of them, but they’re certainly not going to help compared to the medications available today,” Dr. Lockey said.

Enjoy your honey, he says, with an antihistamine.

“Over-the-counter antihistamines are probably safer than water,” he said. “They’re definitely safer than driving in your car, and people do that every day.”

The Fosters aren’t surprised by Dr. Lockey’s reaction. But they’re still believers in bees.

“Ever since we became beekeepers,” says Wendy, “I have gone off prescription allergy medications, and rarely have to take a pill anymore.”

The Fosters encourage others to try out beekeeping. There’s a honey bee seminar on Saturday, April 8, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Upper Tampa Bay Park. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and the cost is $20.

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