Shellfish allergies are among the most common food allergies. It means a person is allergic to mollusks — such as clams, scallops, and oysters — and/or crustacean shellfish — such as shrimp, crab, and lobster. A person could be allergic to one type of shellfish or all of them. Also, a person could be allergic to shellfish and not be allergic to fish, such as flounder and cod.
The allergic reactions may start off mild but can progress to life-threatening.
Allergy symptoms may begin within minutes after contact and include:
- Nasal stuffiness, wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing
- Swelling of the lips, face, throat, or tongue
- Itchy skin or hives
- Dizziness or even fainting
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Those who suffer a severe allergic reaction to shellfish can go into anaphylaxis, which causes the immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can lead to shock and a drop in blood pressure and/or a weak pulse. It creates a medical emergency and must be treated with a quick injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). If you have a shellfish allergy, it may be necessary to carry an epinephrine auto injector, such as an EpiPen, at all times.
Causes and risk factors
What causes this allergic reaction? It’s the overreaction of your immune system to an otherwise harmless substance — in this case, a specific protein in shellfish. Your body thinks it’s a dangerous invader and produces an antibody to protect against it.
If allergies are common in your family, you’re at a greater risk of developing a shellfish allergy.
Prevention and treatment
To be safe, people with this type of food allergy might need to avoid all shellfish and any other foods that might contain even a trace amount of shellfish. If you have a shellfish allergy:
- Read labels and ask about cross contamination at restaurants.
- Avoid seafood restaurants and any place where people might be eating shellfish.
- Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet.
- Carry an epinephrine auto injector, such as an EpiPen.
Consult With an Specialist about Shellfish Allergies
The Florida Medical Clinic team includes experienced allergy and immunology specialists who provide a complete array of services for full diagnosis, asthma treatment and allergy treatment. Contact our Department of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology today to make an appointment.
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