A shellfish allergy is not exactly the same as a seafood allergy. Seafood includes fish (such as tuna or cod) and shellfish (such as lobster or oysters). Although both fall under the seafood category, fish and shellfish are biologically different. For this reason, if the person is not allergic to fish, fish does not cause an allergic reaction in a person allergic to shellfish. Shellfish crustaceans (such as shrimp, crab, or lobster) and mollusks (such as oysters, mussels, oysters, clams, octopus, or squid) are divided into two different groups.
While some people may be allergic to only one, those who have this allergy can be allergic to both groups. Most allergic reactions occur when shellfish is consumed. However, sometimes a person may react to touching shellfish or breathing vapors from cooking. Shellfish allergy can develop at any age. Even people who have eaten these products in the past can develop allergies. Some people overcome certain food allergies over time, but those with shellfish allergies often continue to experience the allergy for the rest of their lives.
Is shellfish allergy the same as shellfish intolerance? An allergist can tell if there is an allergy or intolerance to shellfish. The difference between these two is important. While intolerance causes uncomfortable symptoms, allergies can be potentially life threatening.
Who Has Shellfish Allergy?
Anyone can develop a shellfish allergy, even if shellfish has been consumed or touched without prior problems. Although it can occur at any age, it is more common in adults. Approximately 60% of people with this allergy experience symptoms for the first time in adulthood. This may be because children do not usually eat shellfish. Shellfish is usually consumed for the first time as adults, so symptoms appear later in life.
A study on shellfish allergy found that about 2% of the population (about 6 million people) are allergic to fish, shellfish, or both. Often, those who are allergic to one type of shellfish may also have allergies to other types. However, crustaceans cause more allergic reactions than mollusks. If symptoms occur after eating shellfish, a health or allergist should be consulted before eating any shellfish. However, shellfish allergies are sometimes confused with iodine allergies. This is because shellfish often contain iodine. However, having a shellfish allergy does not mean that you are allergic to iodine. If you are allergic to shellfish, there is no need to worry about reactions with radiocontrast material. Those with shellfish allergies should avoid eating certain ingredients and foods. These ingredients and foods are as follows:
What Causes a Shellfish Allergy?
Shellfish allergy or any food allergy is due to an overreaction of the immune system and the immune system protects the body from invaders such as infections. A food allergy occurs when the body identifies a food item as a foreign invader and attacks it. However, symptoms occur immediately after eating the food or within a few minutes to a few hours.
What are the Symptoms of a Shellfish Allergy?
The symptoms of a shellfish allergy range from mild to severe. While one person is experiencing itching and hives, another person may experience a life-threatening reaction such as breathing problems. Symptoms can affect many different parts of the body: skin, breathing, digestion, and heart. Shellfish allergy symptoms include:
- Tingling or swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
- Chest tightness, wheezing, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- Stomach problems; pain, nausea, indigestion, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Dizziness, weak heart rate, or fainting
- Pale or blue skin color
- Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially fatal allergic reaction that usually involves several parts of the body.
How Is a Shellfish Allergy Diagnosed?
Shellfish allergies can be difficult to diagnose. While symptoms differ from person to person, a person may have different reactions after eating shellfish. A reaction can occur even without eating shellfish, for example when cooked or a piece of shellfish gets into the dish. To diagnose a shellfish allergy, questions need to be answered, such as what was eaten and the amount, when symptoms occurred, what symptoms were experienced, and how long the symptoms last. After answering these questions, food allergy tests are performed to confirm the diagnosis. These tests are as follows:
• Skin prick test: During this test, the skin places a drop of allergen and is soaked into your skin so that the drop leaks into the skin. If a red, itchy bump appears after 15 to 30 minutes, the diagnosis is confirmed.
• Blood test: The blood test can help detect if there is a specific food allergy.
However, these two tests are not conclusive, and a diagnosis can be made with symptoms and history. However, apart from these tests, a small amount of allergen eating tests, under careful and supervision, can provide a definitive diagnosis. The test dose, which was started in small quantities, is gradually increased and the resulting symptoms noted. Sometimes this test can be used to see if the allergies are getting worse. However, most people are unable to overcome their shellfish allergy.
How to Manage a Shellfish Allergy?
The best way to keep yourself healthy is to avoid shellfish. In addition to avoiding shellfish, foods containing shellfish should also be avoided. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list common food allergens, such as shellfish, on food labels. The food label lists the allergen either in the ingredient list or after the list. For example, if a product contains abalone, a type of shellfish, the label says that the ingredients contain abalone (shellfish) or shellfish after the ingredients list.
What Treatments Are Used If I Have Allergic Reaction?
Epinephrine is the main treatment for anaphylaxis. Once the shellfish allergy is confirmed, you will likely be given a prescription for self-injectable epinephrine (EpiPen®). If a person has a severe allergic reaction despite being injected with epinephrine, they should seek immediate medical attention. In the meantime, he should definitely inform the emergency room what happened and the use of epinephrine injection. This is because emergency medical technicians may need to give another dose when they arrive. Epinephrine injection should be used immediately as some conditions are noticed. These situations are as follows:
- Shortness of breath, cough, weak pulse, hives, tight throat or shortness of breath
- A combination of symptoms from different parts of the body, such as hives and swelling with vomiting, diarrhea
- However, if there are mild symptoms of a shellfish allergy, an antihistamine or corticosteroid is recommended. However, only epinephrine is able to treat the severe symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Shellfish Allergies Prevention
The only way to avoid the negative effects of shellfish is to avoid shellfish altogether. In addition to not eating shellfish, some precautions can help stay safe. These measures are as follows:
• Try not to cook or touch shellfish. Inhaling small parts fumes while cooking may cause an allergic reaction. Some people can be allergic when touching shellfish.
• Care should be taken in seafood restaurants. Even shellfish-free meals prepared at seafood restaurants can contain shellfish. Restaurants often use the same cooking equipment (and often the same frying oil) for shellfish and non-shellfish dishes, so contamination may occur.
However, some foods can also contain shellfish, so eating should be avoided. These foods are as follows:
• Bouillabaisse (Provençal fish stew), cioppino (fish stew) and other seafood stews
• Cuttlefish ink
• Seafood flavor
Shellfish allergy can be annoying. Especially those who enjoy eating seafood can interfere with your life. Even when mild symptoms are experienced, precaution and shellfish should be avoided. By avoiding shellfish it is possible to virtually eliminate the irritating (and potentially life-threatening) risks of an allergic reaction. When symptoms are noticed after eating shellfish, a health or allergist should be consulted for a diagnosis.