Background: Some toothpastes, cosmetics and ointments contain propolis, a bee product, and it is increasingly popular as a dietary supplement. Although propolis is known to cause contact allergy, there have been no studies of the prevalence of this.
Objectives: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of contact allergy to propolis in beekeepers and any relationship between propolis allergy and environmental and physical and mental health characteristics in this group.
Subjects and methods: A specially developed instrument which included a validated questionnaire on emotional stability was included in the issues of three German beekeeping journals sent to subscribers in a number of regions (potential readership 35,000). A reference group also completed questionnaire.
Results: 1051 questionnaires were returned and 37 cases of allergic reactions to propolis were reported (3.6%). Only 10 of the 37 (27%) beekeepers had recognised the allergy before participating in this study. Propolis contact allergy was significantly associated with lung diseases and other allergic reactions. Only some affected beekeepers protected their hands more while working with bees and showed significantly greater emotional instability than those not sensitised to propolis.
Conclusions: Contact allergy to propolis is common among beekeepers, but they do not seem to recognise the problem or protect themselves properly.