A Shellfish Allergy May Even Keep You Out Of The Kitchen

Shrimp cocktail may have been a favorite but what if this time you found your lips tingled after eating it? It may be surprising but a shellfish allergy can sneak up on you at any time and in fact, can be quite serious. In fact, most often the tingling at one time can become much more serious the next time you try shrimp or shellfish again. Be sure to pay close attention to the reaction and learn if, in fact, you do develop an allergy.

And for those who develop a shellfish allergy, they tend to be severe and last for the rest of your life.

Difference Between Seafood and Shellfish

First, it is most important to differentiate between a seafood and shellfish allergy.  Seafood includes fish, such as tuna or halibut, and shellfish, such as lobster and clams.  Fish and shellfish are actually different enough that someone with a shellfish allergy may not have a reaction when eating fish.

Shellfish is made up of two different types of marine animals with shells: crustaceans and mollusks.  Crustaceans include shrimp, lobster and crab. Mollusks include: clams, mussels, oysters, scallops or octopus. Those with shellfish allergies can be allergic to one or both of these subgroups.

How the Body Reacts to Shellfish

Exactly what happens with a shellfish allergy? The body’s immune system functions to fight off infections. When someone is allergic, the immune system thinks the proteins in that food are invaders and begins to attack them.

In the case of a shellfish allergy, the body attacks the proteins in the shellfish itself.

As the body senses the invaders, it begins to respond to fight them off. An allergic reaction occurs as histamine is released in the body. Having histamine in the body can cause: coughing, throat tightness, stomach aches, wheezing, diarrhea, itchy eyes, hives, and swelling among other symptoms.

Symptoms may vary from person to person.

Many people with shellfish allergies can experience a very severe reaction which is known as anaphylaxis. Quite often this reaction starts with the symptoms listed above but quickly gets worse, as the person's throat starts to tighten and they have trouble breathing. As this reaction can be life threatening, it is very important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms. An anaphylactic reaction usually requires a trip to the emergency room and an injection of epinephrine.

It is important to remember that for some people who are allergic to shellfish, the reactions can occur by not only eating it, but by touching or breathing in vapors as it is cooking. When shellfish is being cooked, a shellfish protein is released into the air, causing symptoms in many who are allergic. It is important to remember that many restaurants and food products use shellfish as ingredients in other foods, such as soups and imitation shellfish products as well.

Reading labels is important as shellfish ingredients can also be used in non-food products, such as lip gloss and nutritional supplements.

Get Tested

Speaking to your doctor about getting allergy testing for a shellfish or seafood allergy would be advisable if you have experienced any of the symptoms outlined above. This way you can be better informed about how to handle your allergy, what precautions to take and how to avoid any life threatening situations.

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