What Is a Seafood Allergy?

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  • Written By: Jackie Myers
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
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  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2018
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One of the most common causes of food allergy comes from seafood, and the occurrence of these allergies is higher in countries where seafood is a staple. A seafood allergy is generally life-long, and those who suffer from one can experience a life-threatening reaction if they consume seafood. These individuals should take precautions to ensure that they avoid any product that might contain anything that comes from the seafood to which they are allergic. Shellfish and crustaceans are the two major groups of seafood which cause allergic reactions.

A person with a seafood allergy can experience symptoms within a few minutes to a few hours after consuming the food. Those who are allergic to seafood experience a wide variety of symptoms. A mild reaction to seafood can involves itching and a small number of hives. Severe reactions can include breathing problems or swelling in the throat.

A severe life threatening, allergic reaction to eating shellfish is called anaphylaxis. It interferes with the airway passage and can only be treated with an injection of adrenaline. Signs of anaphylaxis include a severe drop in blood pressure and a swollen throat.


Seafood allergies can be divided into two different categories. A shellfish allergy includes reactions to mollusks, such as oysters, squid, and mussels. Crustaceans, including shrimp, lobsters, and crabs are responsible for the second type of seafood allergy. Shellfish allergies occur more often in adults and older children. Those who are allergic to one type of shellfish are allergic to all other types of shellfish.

The crustacean allergy is caused by a protein called tropomyosin, and those who experience reactions to one type of crustacean will be allergic to all other types. It is common for those allergic to cockroaches and moths to suffer from an allergy to crustaceans as well. Those individuals who have an allergic reaction to a fin fish, such as salmon, will not generally have allergies to shellfish.

Individuals with a seafood allergy should find ways to avoid a reaction, which even trace amounts can cause. When dining out, individuals with a seafood allergy should always check to make sure the same pan used for shellfish is not used to prepare other meals. Coral calcium should also be avoided because it comes from coral reefs and causes the same allergic reaction. Doctors recommend reading food labels before purchasing an item.

People who have a seafood allergy must not take glucosamine supplements. Glucosamine is made from shrimp shells, lobster and crab, and is commonly used to help prevent and treat arthritis. An antihistamine may be taken to help reduce itching and redness on the skin.



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