Seafood is a term used to refer to all types of freshwater and saltwater fish, shellfish, and crustaceans, including caviar. A seafood allergy results when our bodies’ immune systems mistake the seafood as harmful and produce anti-bodies that detect the allergens resulting in inflammatory reactions and the secretion of histamine
Different types of seafood and fish allergies such as rockfish allergy may cause life-threatening reactions to people who are allergic to it. A person may be allergic to one type of fish and other crustaceans; this condition is known as cross-reactivity.
Symptoms of a seafood allergy
Seafood allergies are commonly seen in adolescents and adults as opposed to young children. Our immune systems are different and so the allergies can cause diverse symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The reactions don’t only after eating the food but can occur after touching the food or inhaling the fumes as the food is being cooked or processed.
Reactions to any type of seafood may have any of the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Flushed face
- Red itchy skin
- Hives or rashes
- Swollen eyes, lips, face
- Tingling of the mouth
- Digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea
Some life-threatening conditions (anaphylaxis) include:
- Wheezing, persistent cough, or trouble breathing
- Swollen tongue
- Anxiety, distress, sense of weakness
- Tightness of the throat
- Trouble speaking and swallowing
- Difficulty talking or talking in a hoarse voice
- Floppiness in young children
- Persistent dizziness, fainting, and paleness
- A drop in blood pressure
Diagnosis of a seafood allergy
If you suspect that you have an allergic reaction to seafood, have an allergist or a clinical immunologist confirm it. He/she will ask some questions about the reaction. There are several methods that may be used to test for allergy. These include:
- Doing a skin prick test
- Doing a blood test
- Temporarily eliminating seafood from your diet and re-introducing it back into your diet under supervision
If you think that you or a child under your care may have an allergy, it’s important that you keep a record of the symptoms to help the doctors with a diagnosis. Note down whether the symptoms occur for a short time or a long time and how long after you had the particular food or medication.
Treatment for seafood and fish allergies
No matter how careful you are, it’s almost impossible for you to avoid all foods that cause your allergic reactions. If you are at risk of a severe allergic reaction, the doctor will prescribe an adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injector. You should also have a readily-available means of calling for medical assistance.
Again, if you’re allergic to seafood or any other type of food or medication, wear medical identification jewelry. This increases your chances of faster treatment in emergencies.
Inaccurate diagnosis will often lead to ineffective treatment and unnecessary food avoidance which can lead to an unhealthy diet and malnutrition.
How to follow a strict seafood-free diet if you have allergic reactions
If you are allergic to seafood, it’s advisable that you avoid all foods that contain the seafood that you’re allergic to. We hope that you find these tips helpful:
- Check all food labels carefully
- Even for foods that you’ve eaten before, keep checking the labels as the manufacturer may change the ingredients without notice.
- Avoid any foods that say “may contain” or “may contain traces of”
- There’s no need to take chances and gamble with your life. Avoid foods with no food labels. Alternatively, you could contact the manufacturer directly using the contact information on the packaging.
- It’s always easy when you prepare the food yourself. Whenever you’re eating out, ask if any seafood or seafood-based ingredients were used to cook the food.
- Lastly, you need to be very careful about the restaurants you go to as inhaling the seafood being cooked can trigger an allergic reaction.
Regardless of having a seafood allergy, it’s still possible to eat a healthy diet. You can substitute seafood you’re allergic to with other options nuts, eggs, beans, and lean meat.
Keep in mind that people with seafood allergy may also react to fish oil supplements like omega-3. Before taking any supplements, speak with your allergist first about you’re allowed and not allowed to eat.
The best way to manage the allergies is to avoid all foods that contain the seafood you’re allergic to. Carefully read the ingredients of food products before consumption to avoid allergies. This is something you will need to do all your life because such allergies are lifelong conditions.