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.
Just like fish allergy, shellfish allergy is relatively easy to avoid, but unlike fish, if you are allergic to one type of shellfish, you are allergic to all of them.
Once you are diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, you must bid farewell to eating species of crab, lobster, shrimp, prawn, abalone, crawfish, crayfish, oysters, cockle, sea urchin, and all types of mollusks (clams, mussels and scallops).
Symptoms are more common in adults, but children can also develop an allergy but eventually outgrow it, but some end up dealing with their allergy for the rest of their life.
What makes some shellfish allergenic? What are the symptoms?
Proteins in shellfish cause allergic reactions. The symptoms are similar to that of other food allergies which manifest on the skin, in the digestive system, and in the respiratory system. Within 2-24 hours of eating shellfish, the person may experience hives, itching, swelling, wheezing or shortness of breath, asthma, nasal congestion, nausea, upset stomach, cramps, heart burn, gas, diarrhea, lightheadedness, or fainting. In other people, their allergies can be triggered by merely inhaling cooking vapors or handling shellfish.
How to prevent a shellfish allergy?
Like all other allergies, the best way to prevent the symptoms is to avoid the allergens. Therefore, to prevent a shellfish allergy, avoid eating all kinds of shellfish. If you know if you are allergic to shrimp, but not sure if you are allergic to shellfish of another group, such as clams, undergo an allergy test to be sure.
Be discriminating when reading product labels, especially processed Asian-style foods, because shellfish is very popular in Asian cuisine. When dining out, if you are unsure of an item, ask about its ingredients and make sure shellfish is not included in any of the sauces and broths.
Allergies can also act up from cross contamination in the food preparation so it is best to know the restaurants’ practices in cooking food. Make sure that the chef does not cook shellfish on same skillet, or in the same oil as other food. It is possible that in some restaurants, they may cook chicken and clams in the same oil. If so, then opt not to order any food at all because the onset of a shellfish allergy can be life threatening.
Have someone else handle shellfish because in sensitive individuals, contact with shellfish can already activate the symptoms. Inhaling fumes from cooking shellfish can also set off the allergies, so if you know that someone nearby is cooking shrimps, crabs, or other shellfish, stay far away.
If you have experienced an allergic reaction to eating any kind of shellfish before, do not attempt to eat it again. A shellfish allergy persists for several years, and at this time, there are no allergy shots available for food allergies.
Also, cooking shellfish does not decrease its allergenic properties either. Shellfish, both cooked and raw, can trigger allergies with the same intensity.
For sensitive individuals, always wear a Medic Alert badge and carry an injectable adrenaline syringe. If you have any other concerns about diagnosis, symptoms, and prevention tips, seek advice from your healthcare profession.
Fish and shellfish allergies can cause anaphylaxis
People with fish and shellfish allergies can have a variety of reactions to their allergens. Along the most extreme lines are the anaphylactic responses. Although anaphylactic reactions can be mild, the term is generally used in regards to the severe and life threatening reactions that can happen in relation to an allergen. When exposed to an allergen the body responds by releasing histamines. These histamines cause a variety of symptoms the severity of which is related to the amount of exposure and how sensitive the person is to those allergens.
Anaphylaxis is a systemic response and involves a combination of symptoms including the respiratory, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems of the body. Reactions can happen immediately after exposure up to 2 hours and in rare instances as long as 4 hours after exposure.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis
There are differing symptoms for anaphylaxis. The over arching issue is the rapidity of response and the fact that it frequently impairs breathing, needing emergency intervention. Some people will experience a tingling, itching or numbness in the tongue, lips and roof of the mouth and may include a strange metallic taste. This can advance rapidly to swelling of the mouth and throat cutting off the ability to breath. Also noted is flushing, increased heart rate or palpitations, a rapid drop in blood pressure, asthma and related breathing difficulties and a loss of consciousness.
Related symptoms as in bee & wasp stings can be hives, rash, itching and breathing difficulties, asthmas and loss of consciousness as well.
Treatment for anaphylaxis
Treatment for severe allergies resulting in anaphylaxis starts with avoidance. Of course it might take a single exposure to realize how important this is. Reading labels on food, questioning food servers at restaurants is important but they don’t always have the necessary information. Staying armed with a fast acting antihistamine is a good idea as is carrying an Epipen (prescribed by a physician). Getting a person to the emergency room or a physician as quickly as possible is important as life threatening symptoms can come on quickly. It can help to immerse a person in a hot bath or a hot shower to help the body rid itself of the offending toxin.