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by Allison Frank
(Webster, N.Y. U.S.A)

anaphylaxis from hydrangea 21948917
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Question: Have you heard of anyone having an anaphylaxic reaction to a “Pinky Winky” Hydrangea.. AKA Hydrangea paniculata.. or what I believe is more likely, a disease or pest on the plant? It was not chewed, ingested, or burned.

Visiting a friend at her personal residence/property in Avon NY, from inside, I asked about the gorgeous bush/plant in her backyard. It had these large pink feather-like plumes. She said it was a “Pinky Pinky” Hydrangea.

I asked if the the flowers could be clipped and placed in water. She said yes, absolutely. In fact she had some in a vase in her kitchen she pointed out. To which she went outside and clipped a couple more flowers from the plant, added it to the ones in the vase and told me I could have them.

I immediately left after receiving the flowers. I had the vase in my car’s cupholder. Within a few minutes I developed and incredible headache and neck stiffness. As I continued to drive I noticed tingling around my mouth and eyes. And the skin in my right axilla began burning. After a 25 min drive I stopped at the medical practice where I work, and the symptoms had gotten worse. Burning in my throat, dizziness, nausea,flesh-tone hives on both arms – my right armpit was the only place of a significant red burn-like rash…and I developed an incessant cough.

Long story short, that night I was being treated in the ER for anaphylaxis. Was discharged on Sunday. Monday morning I was back in the ER and subsequently admitted for biphasic anaphylaxis. I was discharged on Tuesday.

Symptoms have improved, but the burning sensation like that of a razor burn after a dry shave persists along with numbness and tingly. Slight shortness of breath with exertion with a mild infrequent cough.

I do plan to follow-up with an allergist/immunologist, but I must be off all steroids and antihistamines for 7 days prior to my visit, which will be the first week in September 2021.

In the meantime, this has been SO PECULIAR, as I do not, nor does my family have any history of allergies: food, drugs, pets, insects, seasonal, environmental or otherwise. I have had poison ivy, been stung by bees, wasps, hornets, I spend a great deal of time outdoors… in woods.. on beaches, have been exposed to dust, mold and chemicals blah blah blah with insignias to zero adverse reaction.. Also, hydrangeas happen to be my favorite flower. I have a large bouquet of standard Hydrangeas from Trader Joe’s on my counter for at least a week prior to this incident. Also my home health patient has had a bouquet of Hydrangeas on her kitchen table for at least 2 weeks from her daughter’s yard.. My Hydrangeas are STILL on my counter and look fab.. Zero allergic reaction. Which is why I was hoping perhaps a horticulturist or florist may shed some light on the most likely etiology of my allergic reaction… I am not a plant-person, but as a nurse, it seems more likely that there was some disease/pest/chemical on the plant that I inhaled to have had such a rapid and severe reaction.

I talked to the home owner yesterday.

She does not use any chemicals or pesticides on her plants/property.

She said the hydrangea plant is a year and a half old, bought at a local nursery (she bought two) very quickly they grew and bloomed beautifully. More than doubling in size. (Which I understand is not unusual from the reading I’ve done)

She said there is no apparent disease or evidence of microscopic pests on plant. That said, she said that hydrangea bush is “full of bees” and bee pollen.

Also there is poison ivy growing beneath the bush I
was given flowers from.

Also her property line is shared with a corn and bean farmer, who does spray his crops. She said when he does it often fills the air in her yard with a visible dust-like debris which will subsequently coat the top of her pool requiring heavy skimming to remove it. She does have seasonal allergies and when he sprays she does suffer typical allergy symptoms and take standard allergy meds which relieve her sx. No severe reaction ever.

She said Saturday, when I was at her house the farmer was actively spraying “something” but doesn’t know what it was. She doesn’t know the farmer or how to contact them.

Thank you for your time and any input you may have,

Comments for Anaphylaxis from Hydrangea?

Aug 13, 2021

by: Jacki Cammidge, Certified Horticulturist

What an ordeal! So happy for you that it is under control now.

I’m going to say that I was puzzled – up to the point you mentioned poison ivy growing nearby, and then the farmer and whatever chemical he was spraying. Either of those two things could definitely be the culprit.

I hope you don’t have a recurrence of these symptoms, but you know, the risk of that happening again becomes greater once your system has been alerted. Hopefully the specialist will have some advice for you to follow if it ever does recur.