Can I Eat Lobster or Other Shellfish with a Seafood Allergy?

Lobster on grill
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Can I eat lobster or other shellfish with a seafood allergy?

When I was younger, I was told I was allergic to shrimp after I had some severe reactions, and I've avoided seafood ever since. Do I still need to avoid other shellfish, such as crabs and lobster?


All shellfish are closely related, and they all include similar allergy-causing proteins called tropomyosins. This is especially true of shellfish that are in the same family.

There are two main families of edible shellfish: crustaceans, which include shrimp, lobsters, crabs and crayfish, and mollusks, which include oysters, scallops, clams, and mussels.

There is a high probability that anyone who is allergic to one type of shellfish is allergic to most or all types of shellfish in the same family. There is also a decent probability that they are allergic to types in the other family.

Don't try to taste different types of seafood to see if you can tolerate them if you've already determined that you're allergic to one kind of shellfish. Shellfish allergies tend to be severe, and they are among the most common food causes of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.

Food allergy testing at an allergist's office is a better way to find out if you are able to eat some kinds of seafood. You can find an allergist through your doctor or through a service, such as UCompareHealthCare.

Symptoms of a Shellfish Allergy

Symptoms of shellfish allergy have a rapid onset, usually appearing within minutes up to two hours after eating shellfish, and can include: 

    In some cases, shellfish allergies can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical care.

    Helpful Information for Those with Seafood / Shellfish Allergies

    It's tough knowing what food is safe to eat with a seafood/shellfish allergy, especially since only crustaceans are covered by the Food Allergy Labeling Law (FALCPA). That means only ingredients made from crustaceans must be identified on labels with an allergy warning. 

    It's safe to say a person who is allergic to one type of seafood (crustaceans or mollusks), has a good chance of being allergic to the other type. To be safe, avoid both.

    Crustaceans include:

    • Crab
    • Crawfish (Crayfish or Crawdads)
    • Langoustines
    • Lobster
    • Prawns
    • Sea Urchin
    • Shrimp

    Mollusks include:

    • Abalone
    • Clams (Quahogs)
    • Cockles
    • Limpets
    • Mussels
    • Octopus
    • Oysters
    • Scallops
    • Snails (Escargot)
    • Squid (Calamari)
    • Surimi (imitation shellfish)
    • Whelks


    Adkinson, N. Franklin, et al. "Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice," Chapter 36: Allergen Structure and Function (6th Ed., Philadelphia, Mosby Inc., 2003).

    Zhang, Yan, Hiroaki Matsuo, and Eishin Morita. "Cross-reactivity among Shrimp, Crab, and Scallops in a Patient with a Seafood Allergy." Journal of Dermatology. Mar. 2006. 33(3), 174-77(4). 27 Dec. 2008.

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