Who wouldn’t love to dine at a seafood restaurant? Well, those who have fish allergies of course. No matter how much they want to enjoy a buttered salmon steak or any other fish dish, they just can’t. There is also a risk in ordering a non-fish dish because the skillet, spatula, or oil used to cook the food may have been used to cook fish.
Fish allergies prevail among countries wherein fish is a part of their staple diet, like in Spain, Japan, and Scandinavian countries, and affects around 20 percent of all populations.
What makes some fish allergenic?
Fish allergies are caused by the protein in the flesh of fish. Fish oils and fish gelatin, even if they are not made of fish meat, can still trigger allergies because these products may have been contaminated by the proteins from the fish meat.
Cod, salmon, trout, herring, sardines, bass, orange roughy, swordfish, halibut, and tuna are fish known to cause allergic symptoms, and oftentimes severe anaphylactic reactions.
However, there are times when people who are allergic to one type of fish, such as cod, will also react to other fish, such as hake, haddock, mackerel and whiting. This happens because the protein allergens of these fish are similar.
When it comes to preparation, raw fish can be more allergenic than cooked fish because heat can denature the allergenic proteins, but that is not always the case. Some people can be allergic to cooked fish, but not raw fish.
What are the symptoms of a fish allergy?
In highly sensitive people, the mere smell of fish can trigger their asthma, and eating foods cooked in reused cooking oil, or using utensils and containers that may have been used in storing or cooking fish can cause anaphylaxis, a severe life threatening allergic reaction. Reactions can be immediate, or delayed for as long as 24 hours.
More common reactions to a fish allergy are the same as symptoms of other food allergies which can affect the skin, the digestive system, and the respiratory system. Specifically, there could be presence of urticaria (hives), eczema, and angioedema (swelling), itching, upset stomach, loose stools, vomiting, cramps, gas, vomiting, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, wheezing, asthma, heart burn, lightheadedness, or fainting.
How to live with a fish allergy?
Find out which types of fish trigger your allergy so that you can eliminate them from your diet. But if you are like majority of fish allergy sufferers, the best thing to do is to avoid eating all kinds of fish altogether.
Take extra precaution when dining out or eating foods prepared by others. Even if it is not at a seafood restaurant, check if the chef uses the same skillet or reuses the oil to cook both meat and fish. If this is the practice then there is a possibility that the materials may have already been contaminated with fish proteins. Opt not to eat at all rather than risk an allergic reaction.
Watch out also for typical condiments, sauces, or dressing that may contain fish proteins such as Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad, caviar, roe (fish eggs), or imitation seafood often used in sushi.
Among food allergens, fish is the easiest to avoid, but its manifestations can be most severe. So if you suffer from a fish allergy, educate others about your sensitivity. Make sure that you are aware of all ingredients that may indicate fish protein content in prepared or processed foods. Wear a Medic Alert badge, and carry an injectable adrenaline syringe, just in case of a sudden allergy attack.