You are here:

Shellfish Allergy: What Are the Symptoms?

  • Shellfish: A Common Food Allergy

    Shellfish: A Common Food Allergy

    Shellfish allergies
    are fairly common and can be serious.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that crustacean shellfish are one
    of eight foods or food groups that make up 90 percent of all serious allergic
    reactions in the United States.

    Click through the slideshow to learn more
    about shellfish allergies, tips on spotting shellfish allergy symptoms and
    serious allergic reactions, and what foods to avoid.

  • What Is a Shellfish Allergy?

    What Is a Shellfish Allergy?

    When we talk about
    shellfish, we mean seafood like shrimp, crab, and lobster. Octopus and squid
    are also counted as shellfish.

    Some people with a
    shellfish allergy are allergic to all kinds of shellfish. They might need to
    avoid all seafood. Others only have an allergic reaction to certain shellfish,
    such as shrimp.

    Even a tiny bit of
    shellfish can be enough to give some people a serious allergic reaction.

  • Who Can Suffer from a Shellfish Allergy?

    Who Can Suffer from a Shellfish Allergy?

    Anyone can have a
    shellfish allergy, but some people are more likely to have one more than
    others.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, adults tend to be more likely than children
    to suffer from a shellfish allergy. Among adults, women are more likely to
    suffer than men.

    Children can still
    develop a shellfish allergy. When this happens, boys are more likely to suffer
    than girls are. You’re also more likely to develop a shellfish allergy if other
    people in your family have a food allergy.

  • Mild Symptoms of a Shellfish Allergy

    Mild Symptoms of a Shellfish Allergy

    An allergic reaction usually starts as soon as
    you’ve touched or eaten shellfish. Not every reaction is the same, but common mild
    symptoms of a shellfish allergy can include:

    • itchy
      skin
    • a
      tingly feeling in or around the mouth
    • red,
      itchy spots known as hives
    • an
      upset stomach
    • a
      runny or stuffy nose
  • Obvious Symptoms of a Shellfish Allergy

    Obvious Symptoms of a Shellfish Allergy

    Some shellfish allergy
    symptoms are easier to spot than others. Swelling often happens during a
    shellfish reaction. This might mean your lips, tongue, or even throat swell up.
    Some people also experience swelling of the face or other body parts.

    Other symptoms can include:

    • stomach
      cramps
    • vomiting
    • diarrhea
    • coughing
    • wheezing

    These symptoms are not
    considered life threatening, but you should still bring them to the attention
    of your doctor.

  • Signs of a Severe Allergic Reaction

    Signs of a Severe Allergic Reaction

    A shellfish allergy
    can cause a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis. This condition is a medical
    emergency. If you’re suffering anaphylaxis, you need an injection of
    epinephrine (adrenaline) and other emergency care.

    You may be suffering an anaphylactic reaction
    if you spot any of these danger signs:

    • a
      swollen throat
    • difficulty
      breathing
    • a
      big drop in blood pressure
    • a
      racing pulse
    • dizziness
      or passing out
  • An Allergic Reaction or Food Poisoning?

    An Allergic Reaction or Food Poisoning?

    Many of the symptoms
    of an allergic reaction to shellfish match symptoms that are common in food
    poisoning, but there’s one important difference: a food allergy will usually
    occur each time you come in contact with the food trigger. Food poisoning is
    usually a one-off.

    If after eating
    shellfish you find that you are often experiencing symptoms, you might have an
    allergy.

  • Treatment for a Shellfish Allergy

    Treatment for a Shellfish Allergy

    Many of the mild
    symptoms of a shellfish allergy can be treated with over-the-counter
    antihistamines. These drugs will help calm symptoms such as itching and
    discomfort.

    If you have a severe
    reaction, you’ll need a shot of epinephrine. You should also go to the
    emergency room.

    If you’ve been
    diagnosed with a shellfish allergy and already have an auto-injector, make sure
    you know how to use it at the first signs of a serious reaction.

  • Avoiding Products Containing Shellfish

    Avoiding Products Containing Shellfish

    Some shellfish products are hard to spot. They
    might include:

    • fish stock, which is
      used in many Asian food dishes
    • surimi
      or fake crab, which often contains shellfish meat
    • glucosamine, which is a popular supplement made using
      crustacean shells.

    According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma
    & Immunology (AAAI), people with shellfish allergies can still use
    some glucosamine products. However, as with all supplements, it’s best to ask
    your doctor for advice.

  • Living with a Shellfish Allergy

    Living with a Shellfish Allergy

    There’s no cure for a shellfish allergy, but
    there are steps that can keep you safe and enjoying life. Here are some tips:

    • Cut out shellfish
      foods.
    • Don’t share food.
    • Carry your shellfish allergy medication with you at
      all times.
    • Make sure
      you know how to use your autoinjector if you have one.
    • Make other people aware of your allergy by developing an
      emergency plan and wearing medical bracelets.

    If
    you’re unsure whether something contains shellfish, don’t eat the food in
    question. It’s not worth risking your life.

Loading next slideshow

Read This Next

Back to Start

Shellfish Allergies »

Is Corn a Vegetable? »

The Fight to Become My Parents’ Caregiver »

References:

  • Food
    Allergies in Schools (2013, October 31), Centers for Disease Control and
    Prevention.
    Retrieved on November 11, 2013, from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/foodallergies/.
  • Hives and
    Angioedema Description (2010, December 21), Mayo Clinic. Retrieved
    November 12, 2013, from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hives-and-angioedema/DS00313.
  • Shellfish Allergy Diet (n.d.), Johns
    Hopkins Medicine.
    Retrieved on November 11, 2013, from: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/allergy_and_asthma/shellfish_allergy_diet_85,P00034/.

  • Shellfish
    Allergy is not a Shell Game (n.d), American Academy of Allergy, Asthma &
    Immunology
    . Retrieved on November 11, 2013, from
    http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/shellfish-allergy-can-be-dangerous.aspx.
  • Shellfish
    Allergy Risk Factors (2011, June 23), Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on November
    11, 2013, from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shellfish-allergy/DS00987/DSECTION=risk-factors.
  • Shellfish
    Allergy Symptoms (2011, June 23), Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on November 11,
    2013, from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/shellfish-allergy/DS00987/DSECTION=symptoms.

pile of shelled peanuts

What Are the Symptoms of a Peanut Allergy?

Peanuts are one of the most common causes of serious allergic reactions. Even small particles of peanuts can be enough to trigger an allergic reaction.

Find out more about this type. »

man on an ER gurney

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and Causes of Anaphylactic Shock

Anaphylaxis can also be called anaphylactic shock. It is an allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. In most cases, anaphylaxis will mean you need to take a trip to the emergency room.

Get the facts on this condition. »

More Allergies Slideshows
  • Pictures of Anaphylaxis Symptoms
  • Killer Workouts: Exercise-Induced Anaphylaxis
  • Possible Causes of Allergic Reaction on Your Face
  • Common Allergies in Kids to Watch Out For
  • First Aid You Should Know: How to Treat Allergic Reaction
  • Natural Remedies for Children With Allergies
  • A Look at Food Allergies

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top