In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration began classifying coconuts as a tree nut allergy. Although coconut oil does not contain tree nut proteins, the FDA suspects that people with a tree nut allergy should avoid consuming coconut ingredients, including coconut oil. A coconut oil allergy is uncommon, talk with your doctor if you’ve been clinically diagnosed with a tree nut allergy.
Coconut oil allergy symptoms are similar to that of a tree nut and other food allergy symptoms. Symptoms will develop within a few minutes of consuming the oil or may take up to two hours. The allergy is caused by the immune system mistaking the proteins found in the oil as unsafe. The body reacts to the coconut oil proteins as if they were a threat to the body, which causes the immune system to create immunoglobulin E, or IgE, antibodies to fight off the proteins. This triggers other chemicals in the body, leading to typical food-allergy symptoms.
The skin is commonly affected by a coconut oil allergy in two ways: by ingesting it or touching it to your skin. If you ingest coconut oil, allergy symptoms that may develop include tingling in the mouth, throat or lips, hives, eczema or general inflammation and itching. Allergic contact dermatitis can occur when your skin comes into direct contact with the oil. You will develop swelling, reddish coloring and inflammation in the area of the skin where it was exposed to the substance.
The respiratory system is typically affected after ingesting coconut oil, if you’re allergic. Your lungs may swell, cutting off your ability to breathe normally. Symptoms that may develop from this reaction are coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain. Your sinus cavity may also be affected, creating symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, sinus pressure, sinus headaches and a runny nose. You may develop postnasal drip, a condition in which mucus drains down your throat.
Although rare, you may develop severe allergy symptoms after eating coconut oil. Severe allergy symptoms include the inability to breathe, facial swelling, hives, rapid heart rate and lightheadedness. If you develop any of these symptoms, call 911 or visit the emergency room immediately to prevent serious complications.