February 14, 2018

Do People Allergic to Tree Nuts Also Have a Coconut Allergy?

Coconut, or Cocos nucifera, is a type of tree nuts obtained from coconut palms. Like other tree nuts, coconuts may cause an allergic reaction in some people. However, compared to other tree nut allergies, people rarely develop a coconut allergy.


Allergies caused by tree nuts are one of the most commonly occurring allergic disorders. People can be allergic to various nuts, including cashews, almonds, pecans, etc. However, having an allergy to other tree nuts doesn’t mean you are also allergic to coconut.

If you notice developing allergy-like after eating something with coconut, you should see an allergy specialist in order to detect the cause of your allergy. In case you are allergic to this nut/fruit, you may need to control your condition by avoiding foods containing coconut.

Is Coconut a Trigger for People with Other Tree Nut Allergies?


According the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, coconuts are classified as tree nuts. Food manufacturers are obliged by the law to label coconut-containing foods with “contain tree nuts” sign.

But how high is the risk of having a reaction to coconut in people with tree nut allergies? According to experts, this depends on various factors. In comparison with the common allergenic tree nuts, such as almonds or cashews, coconuts are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction. In some cases, people allergic to one type of tree nuts may cross-react to similar ones.

When it comes to botanic connections, coconut trees have way more in common with other types of palms and betel nut trees, than with other tree nuts. Another factor affecting the likelihood of cross-reactivity between two foods is biological relationship. Thus, certain types of tree nuts that are closely related (for example, cashews and pistachios) may share similar allergenic proteins. This means that if you have an allergy to cashews, you are likely to be allergic to pistachios, too.

According to some studies, cross-reactivity is also possible between coconuts and walnuts, or between coconuts and hazelnuts. In addition, researchers have found some connection between allergies to coconuts and those caused by almonds or macadamias. However, these findings don’t prove that people allergic to the latter are actually sensitive to coconuts.

Another study examined the reaction to coconut exposure in children allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Eventually, the children were rather reacting to sesame than coconut.

How Is an Allergy to Coconuts Diagnosed?


If you have already been diagnosed with an allergy to a tree nut, you may want to stay away from coconut-containing foods to reduce your risk of having a severe reaction. Even though the likelihood of cross-reactivity is low, the risk still exists. Therefore, experts recommend that you conduct an allergy testing with your doctor. Even if you used to eat coconuts without any problems, developing an allergy to another tree nut may increase your risk for a coconut allergy.

There are various tests that help to detect allergies, including a skin prick test, a food challenge, and a blood test. Depending on your medical history and your symptoms, your allergist will perform the most suitable type of testing.

How Can You Avoid Exposure to Coconuts?


In order to prevent an allergic reaction to coconut, make sure that foods you are eating are completely coconut-free. People who have a coconut allergy can react to foods containing coconut oil, water, sugar, milk, milk powder, as well as coconut rice. All of these should be avoided, if you are sensitive to coconut. Besides, it’s a common ingredient of many desserts, candies, and certain alcoholic beverages (e.g. rum). Therefore, you should always pay attention to food labels, and check the ingredients with a restaurant staff when eating out.

People allergic to coconut may experience both food allergy and skin allergy symptoms. For instance, coconut oil, contained in numerous beauty products like shampoos or body lotions, may trigger allergic contact dermatitis in some people. The skin affected by this allergic condition often becomes red, irritated and itchy. If you are allergic to coconut-based cosmetics, look for products that are free of any ingredients derived from coconut.

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