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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Coconut?

A. Pasbjerg
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An allergic reaction to coconut, which can occur when susceptible people eat foods containing coconut or use products containing its oil on their skin, can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Signs of a reaction often occur on the skin, in the form of swelling, itching, and even hives or blisters. Some people may develop respiratory symptoms, including congestion, coughing, or wheezing. Others may have trouble with their digestive systems, including abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. In very rare cases, a severe reaction may occur that can include swelling in the mouth and throat, difficulty breathing, and anaphylactic shock.

Skin issues are frequently a sign of an allergic reaction to coconut, and can be the result of ingestion or from contact with lotions, creams, or shampoos containing coconut oil. If the coconut is eaten, the allergic person may notice tingling or itching in the mouth, throat, or on the tongue, though the reaction may be more systemic and cause itching, eczema, or hives on other parts of the body as well. When the reaction is the result of external application of coconut oil, the person will typically develop contact dermatitis on the skin where it was applied; he or she may find that the skin there becomes red, inflamed, and itchy, and often a rash or blisters will develop.

Respiratory symptoms are another common sign of an allergic reaction to coconut. Sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose may result when allergic people eat coconut, and they may also develop a headache due to sinus pressure. They may also experience tightness in the chest, coughing, and shortness of breath.

People who have an allergic reaction to coconut sometimes experience digestive problems. They may have abdominal discomfort or pain. Some may feel nauseated or even vomit, while others may have diarrhea while the coconut is in their system.

While an allergic reaction to coconut is fairly rare, and a severe reaction is even more unlikely, it is possible for one to occur. People who are extremely allergic may find their tongue, mouth, or throat swelling. They can have chest pain and breathing may become difficult. A severe, extremely itchy rash or hives may develop over much of the body. Anyone who experiences these types of symptoms should seek medical attention immediately, as they could indicate the onset of anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal condition.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A. Pasbjerg
By A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.

Discussion Comments

By hiz — On Jul 11, 2014

As well as feeling unwell and my throat feeling slightly swollen if I accidentally eat coconut, I experience breathing problems around coconut scented products, which seems more difficult to find any research on.

A hand soap in a public bathroom with coconut in it will cause my chest to tighten for 10-15 minutes but with no obvious skin reaction to the product. Last summer, I used a different branch of my gym on weekends, which was a lower tier of that gym line to my normal gym and ran (cheap) coconut scented products in their shower rooms. Obviously, after the first visit I took my own shower products but even being in the shower room, whether or not anyone else was showering at the time, would be enough to bring on symptoms and I would need to shower quickly then sit in the changing rooms for a good 15-20 minutes for my breathing to normalise. Even walking through the shower room from pool to steam room would be enough to catch my chest.

Has anyone heard of any research on coconut scents and respiratory reactions?

By anon955246 — On Jun 05, 2014

I ate one cookie that was made with coconut oil in it and immediately my mouth got sore and my tongue and roof of my mouth. My sister made the cookies and dropped them off at the farm and thank God I only ate one. It's day three and my mouth feels like it has a film on it and tingles, my taste buds aren't working and it's hard on me mentally.

By bear78 — On Feb 04, 2014

@literally45-- It might be. Have you seen a doctor?

Sometimes it's hard to know if a symptom is an allergic reaction or not. This is especially so because allergic symptoms can vary a lot from person to person. I'm allergic to coconut and it makes me itch. For someone else, a coconut allergy may cause wheezing, for another it might cause vomiting or diarrhea. So see a doctor but avoid coconut until you're sure.

By literally45 — On Feb 03, 2014

I only experience diarrhea when I eat coconut, is this a sign of an allergic reaction?

By donasmrs — On Feb 02, 2014

@Sporkasia-- I experienced something similar. I'm not allergic to grated, dry coconut, but I'm allergic to fresh coconut meat, coconut milk and water. I don't know why, but there is something in fresh coconut and not in dry coconut that bothers me. I experience nausea, stomach cramps and bloating. So I can have some foods if only dry coconut was used. But I can't eat anything that has fresh coconut in it.

I don't think it's uncommon for people to be allergic to only some types of coconut products, which in your case is coconut oil.

By Animandel — On Feb 02, 2014

Sporkasia - Your experience does not sound normal and it sounds like quite an ordeal. Not nearly as often, but sometimes, coconut allergies can be as severe as peanut allergies. Fortunately, your reaction was not as bad.

By Sporkasia — On Feb 01, 2014
The strangest thing happened to me. I have eaten coconut my entire life. Since I was a kid, my favorite dessert has been coconut cake and I always have seconds. The point being that I have never had an adverse reaction to any coconut I have eaten, no matter how much I consumed.

Then over a period of a couple weeks, I began to notice redness and welts on various locations of my body from time to time. Of course, I self diagnosed and tried this and that, but the symptoms continued and then I started experiencing congestion, which got worse and worse with time.

All of these symptoms began at the beginning of spring, so, among other culprits, I concluded that pollen was the problem. I started taking over the counter allergy pills, but this didn't help my condition.

Eventually. I had to abandon my attempt at self diagnosis and make a trip to my doctor instead.

After a series of test to determine what I might be allergic to, the doctor concluded that it was coconut. As it so happened, one of the lotions I was using had coconut oil in it. Eating coconut had never bothered me, but rubbing it directly on my skin had caused me to develop an allergic reaction.

I still eat coconut, but I am careful to avoid skin products containing coconut.

A. Pasbjerg

A. Pasbjerg

Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
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