Shellfish Allergy

Shellfish allergy is a common form of food allergy. It can affect people of any age. Unlike other types of food allergy, you might not experience symptoms of shellfish allergy in your childhood. The allergic reactions usually develop in older children or during adulthood.

There are two classes of shellfish – crustaceans and mollusks. Lobsters, prawns, shrimps, crawfish and crabs are members of the crustacean family. Mussels, oysters, snails, scallops, octopus, squid and clams belong to the mollusk category. If you are allergic to anyone type of shellfish, you will be allergic to all other types of shellfish.

Causes of  shellfish allergy

Sensitivity to tropomyosin, a type of protein found in shellfish, is responsible for causing the allergic reactions. Since shellfish contain large amount of iodine, some people fear that sensitivity to iodine might cause shellfish allergy. However, there is no evidence to suggest that allergy developing from shellfish consumption is a consequence of iodine allergy. People allergic to shellfish are not known to exhibit allergic symptoms after consuming other iodine rich foods.

Shellfish allergy symptoms

The symptoms of shellfish allergy depend upon the extent of your sensitivity to tropomyosin. Mild allergy will cause itching and hives. Severe shellfish allergy causes eczema, abdominal pain, inflammation of the lips, throat and tongue, dizziness and breathing difficulties. In the worse case, shellfish allergy leads to anaphylactic shock, which could be life threatening in the absence of proper medical attention.

Dealing with shellfish allergy

Shellfish allergy could be treated with oral antihistamine medications. To prevent complications developing from consumption of shellfish, you should stay away from all types of crustaceans and mollusks. You should be especially careful while eating out in restaurants serving seafood. It could be quite difficult to avoid contact between shellfish and non-shellfish seafood in restaurants that serve both types of dishes.

Even presence of a small amount of shellfish protein is enough to trigger allergic reaction in people prone to shellfish allergy. Avoid consuming foods cooked in oil in which shellfish had been fried. Dietary supplements such as glucosamine extracted from crustacean shells are unsafe for people susceptible to shellfish allergy. Although most omega-3 supplements are derived from cod liver oil, stay away from omega-3 supplements made from shellfish. In a recent study, researchers have found that boiling shrimp for at least 10 minutes might reduce the risk of shellfish allergy.