Background: Royal jelly consumption has recently been linked with acute asthma, anaphylaxis and death. A cross-sectional survey was conducted to determine the prevalence of and the relationship between royal jelly consumption and hypersensitivity reactions.
Methods: 1472 hospital employees of a teaching hospital in Hong Kong completed a questionnaire on royal jelly consumption and related allergic symptoms, and 176 questionnaire respondents and 300 consecutive asthma clinic patients were skin tested to royal jelly.
Results: Royal jelly consumption was high, with 461 out of 1472 subjects (31.3%) having taken royal jelly in the past. A total of nine subjects reported 14 adverse reactions to royal jelly, including urticaria, eczema, rhinitis and acute asthma. Thirteen out of 176 questionnaire respondents (7.4%) and 23 out of 300 consecutive asthma clinic attendees (7.3%) had positive skin test to pure royal jelly. All but one of the 36 subjects with positive royal jelly skin test were atopic to other common allergens. Positive associations were found between positive royal jelly skin test and atopy (OR = 33.73, 95% CI 4.51 to 252.11), adverse reactions to royal jelly and a history of clinical allergy (OR = 2.88, 95% CI 0.72 to 11.58), but not between royal jelly symptoms and previous royal jelly intake.
Conclusion: Royal jelly consumption is high in the community of Hong Kong. Atopic individuals are at high risk of sensitization to royal jelly but the precise relationship between royal jelly use, positive royal jelly skin test and clinical manifestations of adverse reactions to royal jelly, remains to be defined.