Symptoms, treatments, foods to avoid

Although rare, a person can develop an allergic reaction after ingesting or using coconut or coconut products. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including skin rashes, vomiting, and rapid heart rate.

Coconut is a nutrient dense food, high in fibre, calories and minerals, including zinc, iron, manganese, selenium, potassium and copper.

Generally, people use coconut flesh, oil and liquid for cooking and frying. Some soaps, cosmetics and skin care products also contain coconut.

A person may experience unpleasant symptoms after taking coconut orally or topically. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies the coconut as a nut for labeling purposes, it is a fruit of the coconut palm.

Many people with tree nut allergies can tolerate coconut well. However, a person with a nut allergy should discuss this with a doctor before taking coconut.

This article reviews the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of coconut allergies.

A person may have a coconut allergy if they experience an allergic reaction soon after consuming coconut or using coconut products.

When a person has a coconut allergy, as with other food allergies, the immune system – the body’s main defense against infection – misinterprets the harmless proteins in coconut as a threat. .

In response to the threat, the body’s immune system attacks the allergen by producing specific IgE antibodies that bind to the coconut proteins. This binding can trigger immune defenses, causing reactive symptoms.

According to a study 2021coconut allergy is rare, but it is the most common food allergen in commercially available skin care products, with 75% of shampoos and body soaps containing coconut of coconut.

The authors also note that coconut is a typical natural moisturizer for babies, especially children with atopic dermatitis at high risk for food allergy.

This is a growing concern among parents and caregivers of children with food allergies. This may be due to the labeling of packaged foods required by the FDA and the growing demand for an alternative nutritional drink for children with cow’s milk allergy.

Research from 2017 identified the following coconut allergens:

  • Coc n2, a 7S globulin
  • Coc n4, an 11S globulin

Symptoms of coconut allergy can range from mild to severe and can include the following:

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) notes that a person may experience any of these symptoms after coming into contact with a small amount of coconut.

If anyone has worsening symptoms, including anaphylaxis, they should contact their doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital. Without prompt treatment, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

Allergic contact dermatitis can occur after applying a coconut-derived product to the skin. Symptoms may include itchy blisters or rashes 24 to 96 hours after exposure. A person can initially tolerate a contact allergen. However, with repeated exposures over time – especially in people with other allergic conditions such as eczema – contact dermatitis to a previously tolerated allergen may develop.

Although a person may not notice any changes in their skin immediately after using products containing coconut, a discolored, itchy rash develops on their hands the next day. It may take several days for coconut-induced contact dermatitis to resolve on its own.

People who use coconut topically may have a higher risk of coconut-induced contact dermatitis. Due to the high presence of coconut in different skin and hair care products, experts recommend that a person speak with a doctor before applying coconut products topically.

Foods belonging to the same biological class or family generally have similar proteins. If a person is allergic to a protein in a particular food, they can most likely react when eating other foods containing a similar protein.

According to the charity Anaphylaxis United Kingdom, coconut is a member of the palm family and is not closely related to tree nuts. Examples of nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews and pistachios.

This indicates that people with tree nut allergies can tolerate coconut well. A person with a coconut allergy can also safely consume nuts.

However, on rare occasions, a person may experience cross-reactivity with coconut and other fruits containing similar protein content.

To research indicates that two people with tree nut allergies reacted to coconuts due to a cross-reacting protein. Another person with a coconut allergy developed oral allergy symptoms after consuming coconuts. The authors identified a cross-reacting protein found in coconut and hazelnut as the cause.

Evidence from this report suggests that there is cross-reactivity between coconut and walnut and between coconut and hazelnut.

If a person has concerns about developing cross-reactivity, they should talk to a doctor.

The AAAAI notes that a proper diagnosis is the first step in disease management. To diagnose a coconut allergy, the doctor can recommend subsequent examinations. This includes:

  • Medical background: The doctor will take a person’s medical history to understand the symptoms and causes of a person’s coconut allergy.
  • Physical examination: The doctor may perform a physical examination of a person’s eyes, ears, nose, throat, chest, and skin. They may also order a lung function test or X-ray to examine how a person is breathing.

A doctor can perform a skin test, patch, or blood test to accurately diagnose a person’s coconut allergy symptoms.

  • Skin test: The doctor will place a small droplet of allergen on the skin and gently prick the skin with a needle or sharp plastic device through the droplet of allergen. A person with an immediate type coconut allergy will experience discoloration, itching and swelling at the sting site within 15 minutes.
  • Patch test: This test can help the doctor determine which specific coconut allergen is causing contact dermatitis. The doctor will place a small amount of allergen on a person’s skin, cover it with a bandage, and examine any skin reactions within 48 to 96 hours. A person will have a local rash if they are allergic.
  • Blood test: If a person does not tolerate skin testing, the doctor may take their blood sample and measure the number of antibodies to coconut allergens in their blood.

According to American Asthma and Allergy Foundation (AAFA)If a person is diagnosed with an immediate type IgE-mediated coconut allergy, the doctor will recommend avoiding the use and taking of coconut or coconut-based products. It’s the best treatment plan.

There is currently no cure for coconut allergy. There are also no medications to prevent reactions.

However, a doctor may recommend antihistamines to help reduce any worsening of symptoms.

They can also recommend certain habits to adopt, including:

  • read food labels to avoid eating foods containing coconut
  • asking about ingredients when eating food prepared by families, friends, or restaurants
  • complete an anaphylaxis action plan and carry self-injectable epinephrine such as the EpiPen with you at all times

Some people may find that changing their diet improves their coconut allergy symptoms. This may involve avoiding foods containing coconut, such as:

  • coconut
  • coconut aminos
  • coconut cream
  • coconut extract
  • coconut flour
  • coconut milk
  • coconut milk powder
  • coconut sugar
  • coconut oil
  • coconut water
  • coconut powder
  • grated coconut
  • grated coconut

People with coconut allergies should be vigilant about reading labels to ensure that nothing they eat contains coconut or could have been contaminated with coconut during production .

Coconut allergy is rare. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

Avoiding foods and products containing coconut is the best way to prevent allergic reactions.

However, since coconut is a staple in many diets and products, people should be careful to avoid accidental exposure.

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