Coconut is not a nut, but rather a fruit belonging to the Aracaceae (palms) plant family. Despite this, allergen labelling legislation in the United States requires that where coconut is present in a food, it must be declared on the packaging. A recent case report from a paediatric allergy consultant in Texas, USA, provides an interesting summary of what is known about coconut allergy.
Reports of coconut allergy are rare and only a handful of cases have been reported in the literature in adults and children. However, all reported cases have included anaphylactic reactions.
While there has been some indication of cross-reactivity between coconut and tree nuts and pulses, another study has previously reported that children with allergy to peanuts or tree nuts are not more likely to be sensitised or allergic to coconut.
The case study referred to in this publication relates to a child who had previously been tolerant to coconut products, through both oral consumption and topical application of coconut oil. At age six (6) the child developed hives and symptoms of anaphylaxis to coconut products.
Given the increasing use of commercially available coconut products, it is possible there will be an increase in the number of reported cases of coconut allergy, even in those who have previously tolerated coconut products.
Reference: Anagnostou, K. 2017. Children. Vol. 4(85). Doi:10.3390/children4100085
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