Shellfish allergy is the most prevalent type of food allergy that affects adults all over the world. It is quite common in adults than children. Unlike with the other types of food allergies, this allergy is likely to develop during adulthood than in early childhood. Most individuals who have shellfish allergy experience their first reaction as adults. Remember that this allergy is usually severe and lasts for a lifetime.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The indications of shellfish allergy typically manifest within minutes up to 2 hours after ingesting shellfish. The usual symptoms that manifests include the following:
- Skin reactions such as eczema or hives
- Angioedema or swelling of the lips, face or tongue
- Allergic conjunctivitis such as red, watery or itchy eyes
- Airway issues such as coughing, runny nose or wheezing
- Digestive reactions such as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
This type of allergy can also cause a severe reaction or anaphylaxis. Remember that this is a medical emergency that entails immediate medical attention. Shellfish allergy is also the usual cause of exercise-induced anaphylaxis where ingestion of the food allergen and physical activity triggers a severe reaction.
Close look on shellfish
It is important to note that shellfish are categorized into 2 groups – crustaceans and mollusks.
Mollusks include oysters, clams and squid. Crustaceans include lobster, shrimp and crayfish. Take note that shellfish can thrive in salt or fresh water or even on land. Those who are allergic to one type of crustacean such as shrimp are generally sensitive to other crustaceans as well.
If the individual is sensitive to crustaceans, he/she may or may not be able to eat mollusks such as oysters or clams. Allergy testing is considered as the safest way to determine which shellfish can be eaten by the individual.
Life with shellfish allergy
Since there is still no proven cure for shellfish allergy, the management involves avoidance of all types of shellfish and being prepared to deal with future reactions. If the individual has been diagnosed with a severe allergy, the doctor will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector that the individual should carry at all times.
Remember that avoidance might seem simple, but the trigger allergens might be present in unsuspecting sources. With this in mind, it is vital to carefully read all food labels and always ask questions when eating outside.
If an individual is highly sensitive to crustaceans, he/she is likely to be sensitive to mollusks. Take note that allergy testing is usually required to determine if mollusks are safe to be eaten or if the individual have to avoid them entirely.