Does your mouth water every time you see dishes made of shrimps, lobsters, or clams? Do you enjoy eating tuna, scallops, squid, or crabs? Most of us do. However, there are some people who don’t get the privilege of consuming seafood. This is because their bodies react to the allergen found in these foods. This allergic reaction is called a seafood allergy.
A seafood allergy is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system to proteins found in seafood. Normally, our immune system fights infections. However, when you have a seafood allergy, our body’s immune system overreacts to the proteins found in this seafood. Every time a person with a seafood allergy eats certain seafood, their body thinks that these proteins are harmful and attacks them, causing an allergic reaction to seafood.
The most common seafood allergy is shellfish allergy. It is one of the most dangerous food allergies, sending more food-allergic people to emergency rooms than any other allergy. It is important to note that the shellfish allergy is different from the fish allergy. People who are allergic to shellfish aren’t necessarily allergic to fish and vice versa. However, it is also possible that a person is allergic to both groups. Allergic reaction to shellfish ranges from mild symptoms such as stomach pain to life-threatening.
A seafood allergy can develop at any age. It is possible that you don’t develop a seafood allergy as a child, but find yourself allergic to them as you grow older. Although some people can outgrow some certain food allergies over time, those who have shellfish allergy have the allergy for the rest of their lives.
A shellfish allergy is not exactly the same as seafood allergy. Shellfish are type of seafood that have shell and called as crustaceans such as:
There are also shellfish that are called as mollusks such as:
Shellfish fall into the category of seafood. Tuna, cod, salmon, trout, shark are called fish that also falls in the category of seafood. So there are 3 different types or categories of seafood. Some people are allergic to both groups but some are allergic only to one.
Seafood allergy is caused by an abnormal response of the body’s immune system to protein in certain marine animals. In seafood allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a certain protein in shellfish as harmful, triggering the production of antibodies to the protein (allergen). The next time you come in contact with the allergen, your immune system releases histamine and other chemicals that cause allergy symptoms.
Seafood allergy symptoms can develop within minutes after eating certain seafood.
Some of these symptoms may include:
Allergic reaction to shellfish can react differently at different times. People with mild allergy to shellfish will have a tendency to experience these mild shellfish allergy symptoms.
If you are already experiencing some of these symptoms, immediately contact a doctor or an allergist for emergency treatment. Note that a seafood allergy can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Even though it might start with a mild reaction, it can quickly get worse. If anaphylaxis is not immediately addressed, it can be dangerous and life-threatening.
Allergy testing is the only way to make sure that the reaction you’re having is caused by an allergy or not. There are a number of ways to know if you really are allergic to seafood. Your doctor may ask about your symptoms and may perform a physical exam. A simple skin prick test can identify whether you have a seafood allergy or not. In this test, a small amount of allergen is placed on your skin which will then be pricked or scratch. If there is swelling on the area that was pricked, it means that you are allergic to that substance or allergen.
Another test your doctor may suggest is the blood test. During this test, blood is drawn and is tested for allergies. Blood testing is more costly than the other tests and the results take longer to receive.
If you’re already diagnosed with a seafood allergy, make sure to avoid seafood. Make sure to check the labels of food products that you purchase. You should also be extra careful when you dine out, as waiters do not always know the ingredients of the dishes of the restaurant.
If you have a seafood allergy and have already experienced a severe allergic reaction, then your doctor will recommend that you carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you all the times in case of emergencies. Epinephrine should be used immediately if you experience a severe allergic reaction such as shortness of breath, coughing, tightness in the throat, and having a weak pulse.
It would also be a good idea if you will carry medications like over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines and corticosteroids to treat mild allergy symptoms. It is good to remember that there is no substitute for epinephrine. This is the only medication that can treat life-threatening situations.
Answer: Yes, you can develop seafood allergy any time. Most food allergies begin in childhood, however, there is one allergy that stands out; the shellfish allergy. You may develop shellfish allergy any time but tends to develop in adulthood.
Answer: Food allergies are often considered allergies that may be outgrown but it depends on the specific food that causes the allergy. However, seafood allergies are NOT on the list of food allergies that are commonly outgrown. Those who have shellfish allergy have the allergy for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, researchers continue to focus on ways to other food and shellfish allergy treatment.
Answer: You can test seafood allergy by a skin prick test or a blood test called radioallergosorbent (RAST). It measures the immune system’s response to shellfish. Allergy testing is the only sure way to know if the reaction you’re having is indeed a seafood allergy.
It would take some time for symptoms to be present after eating shellfish, but mostly it will develop after a few minutes. Symptoms may include:
Your doctor or allergist may instruct you to treat a mild reaction to shellfish with medications such as antihistamines to reduce signs and symptoms. But if you have a severe allergic reaction to shellfish, you’ll likely need an emergency injection of epinephrine.
Should you have a seafood allergy, make sure to speak to a doctor or an allergy clinic in College Station so that he or she can find a solution to your allergies.
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology