Fish and Shellfish Allergy (Seafood)
Seafood allergy is the most common food allergy in the United States. Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergy, with 6.9 million allergic to fish and/or shellfish.
Seafood allergy is usually a life-long allergy and can cause life-threatening reactions. A seafood allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly interprets the proteins in a product containing fish or shellfish as a harmful substance. When a person with this allergy comes in contact (touching, breathing or eating) with seafood, the body produces antibodies to fight the harmful substance, and this triggers an allergic reaction.
The most common reactions include rash (atopic dermatitis), redness and swelling around the mouth, hives (urticaria), asthma, stomachache, cramping, diarrhea or vomiting, asthma, and in extreme cases anaphylaxis. Reactions can occur within minutes or several hours after consuming the allergen.
Some patients are allergic to all “scaly” and “bony” fish, while others are only allergic to certain species but are able to eat other seafood species without problems. The fish family includes cod, haddock, herring, sprat, halibut, mackerel, trout and salmon and more (see below). Since the proteins in various types of fish are very similar, so you may need to stay away from all types of fish. Check with your physician before consuming any fish.
These Foods Contain Fish
If you have a fish allergy, you may want to avoid seafood restaurants. Even if you order a non-fish meal, your food is very likely to be contaminated with fish proteins from cooking utensils, cooking oil or cooking surfaces or grills contaminated with fish. Also, severe reactions have occurred from simply breathing the vaporized proteins from the fish/shellfish cooking.
Note - Menhaden is a fish caught along the Atlantic coast. It is used in products such as vitamins, soap, lipstick, paint, insect spray, and waterproofing.
Shellfish is divided into two different categories, molluscs and crustaceans. Molluscs have a hinged two-part shell and include abalone, clams, oysters, mussels, and squid or calamari. Crustaceans have jointed legs, a hard shell and no backbone. They include lobsters, crayfish, crawfish, prawns, crab and shrimp.
Since the proteins in various types of shellfish are very similar, so you may need to stay away from all types of shellfish. Check with your physician before consuming any shellfish.
Examples of Shellfish
Foods Likely to Contain Seafood (Fish or Shellfish)
- fish food
- gelatin, marshmallows
- lip balm/lip gloss
- Marinara sauce
- pizza toppings
- Puttanesca Sauce
- salad dressings
- sushi, sashimi
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