Everything You Need to Know about Seafood Allergies

Our guest blogger this week is Kate Addams and today, she’ll be blogging about Red Tractor Assurance, the largest farm and food assurance scheme in the UK.”

DSC_0862 diner fish smMore people are developing food allergies than ever before. In fact, the number of children developing food allergies increased by almost 20 per cent between 1997 and 2007.

Of all the known food allergies, an allergy to seafood (be it finned fish or shellfish) is the most common. These are some of the symptoms of a seafood allergy:

  • Tightness of chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tingling or swelling in the face
  • Light-headedness / dizziness
  • Wheezing or whistling sound when breathing
  • Itchy skin

It is worth nothing that the last one is, perhaps, the most common symptom of even a very light allergy. In fact, in some cases, a person who does not consider themselves allergic to seafood may still develop itchy skin when the consumer comes in contact with seafood. This likely indicates a very light – almost negligible – allergy to seafood and is generally not something worth worrying about.

What is Anaphylaxis?

The greatest risk associated with any food allergy is anaphylaxis – a life-threatening condition that can be brought on in the most severe cases. This can occur quickly and with relatively little warning, so it is essential that those who know that they suffer from shellfish or fish allergies to be prepared for this contingency.

When a person goes into anaphylaxis, their airways may constrict to the point that they can no longer breathe. Circulation may also be impaired. Generally, anaphylaxis begins a few minutes after consumption of the food, though it can take much longer in some cases.

These are some of the tell-tale warning signs that anaphylaxis is occurring:

  • Itching, hives and swollen lips
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drop in blood pressure

If any of the above occur after ingesting seafood, the best thing that you can do is seek medical assistance and ensure their adrenaline injector is available.

lobster smAdults at Greater Risk for Seafood Allergies

In most cases, children are at higher risk of having an allergic reaction than adults. However, seafood is the notable exception. For some reason, adults are significantly more likely to be at risk than children. Not only that – seafood allergies are also the most likely allergy to cause anaphylaxis, which means that adults need to be extra careful if they have any reason to believe that they are developing an allergy.

It is also worth mentioning that family history plays an important role in determining a person’s risk of developing a seafood allergy. If it runs in your family, then there is cause for you to be more vigilant than you might otherwise have been.

Also, bear in mind that there are different types of seafood allergy:

Fish Allergy: This is an allergy to finned fish, such as salmon, snapper, tilapia, trout, cod, bass, catfish, herring and perch.

Shellfish Allergy: This is an allergy to aquatic creatures, classified under the new EU regulations as follows

  • Crustceans  including prawns, lobster, scampi, crab, shrimp
  • Molluscs – mussels, whelks, squid, land snails, oyster

Seafood Allergies Develop Over Time

fish smallWe have already established that adults are more likely than children to have an allergy to seafood. In fact, some 60 per cent of persons with a seafood allergy developed it later in life. Once an allergy develops, it usually sticks around for life. There is no getting over it.

The most effective way to predict your own risk of developing an allergy involves looking at your parents and immediate family members. You see, the initial onset of a seafood allergy can be very dangerous, if only because the victim is usually unaware that they have a problem to begin with. This mean that the allergy can catch them off guard and become much more life threatening.

Unfortunately, it does not take much to trigger a reaction in allergic persons. In fact, it is not even necessary to actually eat the fish. In some cases, steam from a lobster pot or sizzling fish in a frying pan can introduce particles that will cause an allergic reaction. With that in mind, it is important for those who believe they are at risk of developing an allergy to seafood to remain ever-vigilant.


Finally, if you believe that you may be developing a food allergy of any type, the best thing that you can do is go to see an allergist. They can perform spot checks to help you determine specifically what types of fish or shellfish you are allergic to.

Likewise, educate yourself on interpreting the labels printed on food products. These are an invaluable tool when it comes to determining what is and is not safe for you to consume. Remember, if you know for a fact that you have a food allergy, and you see a particular ingredient on the labelling that you are not familiar with, the best thing to do is avoid that food until you can guarantee that ingredient in question does not pose a risk to you.







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