Coconut allergy is considered rare with only a few reported cases. Many usually confuse coconut as a tree nut however it is actually a fruit.
What are the symptoms of coconut allergy?
Even though a rare allergy, the symptoms of food allergy that might be linked with a coconut allergy can manifest after ingesting foods that are made out of coconut include the following:
- Skin reactions such as hives, rash or eczema
- Digestive symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
- Respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or runny nose
- Swelling or angioedema of the tongue, lips or face
- Severe reactions or anaphylaxis can occur which affects multiple organ systems but this reaction is considered extremely rare.
Contact dermatitis upon exposure to coconut is more common than a full-blown allergic reaction. This is due to the existence of coconut-based products such as coconut diethanolamide, cocamide DEA and cocamide sulphate that might be present in cosmetics such as moisturizers, shampoos, soaps, hand washing liquids and cleansers. In most cases, a blistering rash might develop 1-2 days after exposure to the coconut allergen and takes several days to resolve. Once contact dermatitis due to coconut occurs, it is best to consult a doctor for proper testing.
Coconuts are closely linked to other palm and betel nuts. Even though the botanical relationships are not the only factor used to determine whether 2 foods are cross-reactive, foods that are closely-linked biological relations often share related allergenic proteins.
Pistachios and cashews are 2 closely associated plants that include parallel proteins. Those who are highly sensitive to one of these nuts are frequently allergic to the other as well. When dealing with coconut, there is proof of cross-reaction between coconuts and hazelnuts.
How coconut allergy is diagnosed
Coconut allergy is typically diagnosed by a doctor after a medical history, physical exam and food allergy testing.
Treatment and prevention
The management for coconut allergy involves the elimination of coconut and products that contain coconut from the diet.
If an allergy to coconut is established, all coconut products must be eliminated from the diet to avoid a reaction. Coconut is present in various food products and added for texture and flavor. The individual must avoid foods that are made out of coconut such as cookies, granola bars, cereal and other desserts.