An allergy to shellfish is a type of seafood allergy. Just like a fish allergy, it 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.