Allergic to Daffodils?

Published: March 19, 2012

Q. Last year while volunteering for the Cancer Society, my teenage daughter had a reaction to the daffodils she was handing out. She went completely red in the face, got itchy hives on her hands and arms and her throat felt tight. (The latter may have been anxiety.) As it seems she’s allergic to daffodils, should she avoid all narcissus plants?

Dr. Waserman: Daffodils are considered “allergy-friendly,” since plants with showy flowers are generally pollinated by insects rather than the wind. Daffodils produce less pollen, and symptoms such as allergic rhino-conjunctivitis and asthma aren’t commonly associated with them.

However – handling daffodils is another story. Among florists and flower pickers, allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis (from sap) and hives are quite common.

Your daughter may have had an allergic or irritant contact dermatitis reaction or urticaria (hives). I recommend that she not handle daffodils and related narcissus varieties.

While unusual with daffodils, the throat symptoms might be an acute reaction, or anxiety as you suggest. Your daughter needs to be assessed by an allergist. If her symptoms and testing indicate allergic rhinitis, the allergist likely will prescribe intranasal steroids to alleviate the allergy.

We welcome your question to Allergic Living’s Ask the Allergist. Thank you for understanding that the specialists aren’t able to answer every question received.

Dr. Susan Waserman is an allergist and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. She is also a past president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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