Nearly two-percent of Amercian adults are likely to have a shellfish allergy. Unlike, other food allergies, shellfish allergy develops in adulthood. Approximately, 60% of people experience shellfish allergy’s first reaction during adulthood, and it tended to be a lifelong allergy.
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There are two types of shellfish – mollusks, and crustaceans. Mollusks include oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops. On the other hand, crustaceans include lobster, shrimp, and crayfish. Shellfish live in fresh or salt water or even on land.
Shellfish Allergy Symptoms
The shellfish allergy symptoms usually occur within a few minutes or up to two hours of eating shellfish. The common allergy symptoms may include:
- Allergic skin reactions like eczema and hives.
- The allergic conjunctivitis is further manifested by itchy and watery eyes.
- Gastrointestinal reactions include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or combination of all these symptoms.
- Other symptoms may include coughing, wheezing, or a runny nose
- Angioedema including swelling of face, lips, or tongue may include.
People who are allergic to any type of crustacean, such as shrimp, may not be allergic to mollusks. But it’s better to go for allergy tests to find out which shellfish allergy you have. It’s better to consult a doctor before eating any shellfish if you’re doubtful that you may have an allergy.
Shellfish contains tropomyosin, an allergenic protein, that’s also found in snails, dust mites, cockroaches, as well as other insects. People who have shellfish allergies can also experience a similar reaction to these insects as well.
Usually, physical examination after going through detailed medical history is done for diagnosing shellfish allergy.
The treatment for shellfish allergy is to eliminate the shellfish and foods from the diet. If you have been diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, you need to get shots of an epinephrine auto-injector (commonly called an Epi-Pen) and also need to carry it with you all the time.
How to Avoid Shellfish
In U.S., crustacean shellfish is usually covered with the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). The manufacturers are recommended to label food with exact ingredients present in the package. You must check the ingredient list before buying any of the shellfish to avoid any allergic reaction.
However, FALCPA does not need to label mollusk shellfish. So, manufacturers are not needed to list the presence of oysters, clams, mussels, scallops or other mollusks in the list.
Foods to Avoid a Shellfish Allergy
Some of the most common types of crustacean shellfish include:
Crab, Lobster, Crawfish (Crayfish or Crawdads), Prawns, Sea urchin, and Shrimp.
If you’re allergic to mollusks, you should avoid all mollusks: Abalone, Cockle, Clam (Quahog), Mussels, Limpet, Octopus, Oysters, Snails, Scallops, Squid (Calamari), Whelk, and Surimi (imitation shellfish)
Shellfish Allergy and Iodine
There are some unsubstantiated substances that cause cross-reactivity between shellfish allergy and iodine. If you are allergic to shellfish, it is recommended to avoid iodine or radiocontrast
The symptoms of shellfish poisoning begin to occur within 30 minutes of consuming the tainted shellfish. Shellfish poisoning is actually caused by a very potent toxin known as saxitoxin that’s released by algae-like organisms. These organisms are likely to live in bivalve mollusks, like clams and oysters. This toxin affects only mollusks and no other seafood. The common symptoms of shellfish poisoning include burning and tingling sensation in mouth or extremities like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Shellfish poisoning can be very serious and even fatal. If you experience any of these aforementioned symptoms soon after having shellfish, you need to seek immediate medical care.