Common allergies: Shellfish allergy

Shellfish allergy develops more often in adults and older children. This allergy can develop at any age and can be due to foods that have been previously eaten without any issues. Many individuals who are allergic to one type of shellfish are often highly sensitive to other types of shellfish. In addition, many individuals with this allergy will not lose the allergy over time.

Indications of shellfish allergy

An allergic reaction to certain foods typically starts within minutes to a few hours after consuming the offending food. The severity of the symptoms tends to vary widely from one individual to another.

Those who are mildly allergic experience itchiness and a few hives while severe cases can end up with severe, life-threatening symptoms such as breathing difficulty or swelling of the throat. The symptoms of this food allergy can include any of the following:

  • Hives
    Shellfish allergy

    The mild reactions can be managed with oral antihistamines while severe reactions require an injectable epinephrine.

  • Itchiness
  • Eczema
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling or tingling of the throat, lips or throat
  • Shortness of breath, tightness of chest or breathing difficulty
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Anaphylaxis or systemic allergic reaction involving several parts of the body

How to avoid exposure

If an individual has shellfish allergy, it is vital to strictly avoid shellfish to prevent a reaction. Manufacturers are required to list down the common allergens on the labeling to easily identify food allergens. The labels should clearly list the allergens such as wheat, soy, cow’s milk, peanut, egg, tree nuts, shellfish and fish. Once an individual is suspected with the allergy, the following must be avoided:

  • Clams
  • Abalone
  • Conch
  • Cockle
  • Crab
  • Mollusks
  • Crayfish and crawfish
  • Lobster
  • Octopus
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Snails
  • Prawns and shrimps
  • Squid

Always remember that shellfish protein can become airborne during the cooking process and trigger an allergic reaction. Some individuals can experience a reaction after handling shellfish.

When eating outside, be careful when eating fried foods since some restaurants utilize the same oil to fry seafood as well as non-seafood dishes. An allergy to iodine or radiocontrast material and allergy to seafood are not related. If an individual has shellfish allergy, he/she should not worry about reactions with the radiocontrast material or iodine.


  • The individual should be aware of the foods and beverages consumed.
  • Carefully check the labelling before using a particular product even if the food is safe the last time it was eaten.
  • Children should be instructed not to accept food from others.
  • When eating outside, ask the server regarding the ingredients used and how the food was prepared.
  • An individual with the allergy must always wear a medical alert bracelet with details regarding the allergy.
  • Consult a doctor on how to prepare for a reaction. The mild reactions can be managed with oral antihistamines while severe reactions require an injectable epinephrine.



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