One of the most common food allergies that affect individuals all over the globe is shellfish allergy. Shellfish are edible crustaceans that include shrimp, lobster, crawfish and crab. An individual can also experience an allergic reaction to mollusks such as clams, oysters, snails and squid. Take note that shellfish allergy is triggered by a particular protein present in these foods.
What is the allergen protein?
The reason why some individuals are allergic to shellfish is due to the protein. This particular protein present in shellfish triggers a breakdown in the immune system of the individual. The glitch that is initiated causes the production of antibodies that are released in order to fight off the protein. The antibodies that are comprised of histamine and other chemicals will signal the body that an allergen is present and this is when the symptoms develop which is known as an allergic reaction. Every type of shellfish produces its own allergy-producing proteins.
What are the symptoms of shellfish allergy?
Depending on the severity of the allergy, the typical symptoms include skin reactions such as hives or rashes that is accompanied by itchiness and swelling. Take note that these symptoms can manifest within 2-4 hours after the shellfish has been ingested. The severe reactions include respiratory difficulties such as asthma, trouble breathing and congestion. Additionally, the allergic reaction can also trigger nausea, stomach upset and diarrhea.
Individuals who are prone to severe food allergies should always have on-hand antihistamines in order to alleviate the symptoms. The most severe allergic reaction is called as anaphylaxis.
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is basically a life-threatening allergic reaction. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include rapid heart rate, swollen throat and dizziness. Due to the swelling of the throat, it compromises the breathing and even blocks it completely. There is even an increased risk of developing this type of reaction if asthma is already present. Since this is a life-threatening reaction, emergency care must be provided right away. Individuals who previously experienced a severe allergic reaction to shellfish are prescribed with an injectable epinephrine or EpiPen that is administered to counteract the symptoms of the reaction until medical care is provided.
Testing for the allergy
The doctor will initially ask about the symptoms and if there is a relationship to eating shellfish and if an allergic reaction occurred. There are two types of tests that can determine if the individual has shellfish allergy – blood test and skin prick test. During a skin prick test, a small area on the skin is pricked and a tiny amount of the allergen is introduced into the site. If hives or bumps occur, it indicates a positive reaction. As for a blood test, it involves taking a blood sample and analyzed in a laboratory in which an allergen-specific test is carried out.
Preventing shellfish allergy
The best way to prevent shellfish allergy is to avoid shellfish. If a definitive test is not yet performed, the individual should not eat any form of shellfish. An allergy can occur just be holding the shellfish as well as inhaling the fumes when cooking shellfish.