Conkering fears: are horse chestnuts safe for nut allergic children?

When I went to collect D from nursery yesterday, his pre-school room supervisor asked me if he could safely handle conkers (aka horse chestnuts)?

I’ve now looked into this and discovered that, in 2004, the BBC reported that several schools were banning children from playing conkers because of nut allergy fears. Hazel Gowland (food adviser to the Anaphylaxis Campaign) suggested, to The Telegraph, that it would be sensible if nut allergic children stayed out of the way when their classmates were playing conkers and the players should wash their hands afterwards.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign website advises that:

“…we can find no credible reports suggesting that conkers pose any risk to people with nut allergy.

We have heard a few anecdotal reports from people saying they have skin reactions to conkers when they handle them. Clearly if this happens, they should be avoided. No one should be eating them as they are poisonous in their own right.”

We happened to have a hospital appointment this morning, so I was able to check this out. Conkers shouldn’t pose a problem for D. Saying that, I may let him play with them at home first, before he handles them at nursery, just in case he has a skin reaction.

For more information, see:


  1. Have you heard of the book Wheat Belly. In their blog page successstories there is a father who said that is daughter are going wheat and gluten free as per the book lost her nut allergy for hazelnuts.

    The post is on 03rd April 2013 very interesting and something that we should share with people who have nut allergies.

    Many other amazing health benefits as well.

    1. Thanks Debbie. I hadn’t heard of it, and admittedly I’m no doctor … but my first thought is that must have been a coincidence? I think for me personally, I would only cut a further food from my son’s diet on our own allergy doctor’s orders – it’s challenging enough avoiding nuts (and that’s an essential!).

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