SHELLFISH ALLERGIES

Shellfish allergy is an overreaction by the body’s immune system to proteins in certain marine animals such as shrimp, crab, oysters, lobster, octopus, squid and scallops.

Shellfish protein activates antibodies that trigger the immune system to release natural chemicals called histamine to attack the protein. Histamine is responsible for the signs and symptoms of shellfish allergy.

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Repetitive cough
  • Tight, hoarse throat; trouble swallowing
  • Swelling of the tongue and/or lips
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale or blue coloring of the skin
  • Dizziness or confusion

DIAGNOSIS

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask what and how much you ate, how long it took for symptoms to develop, which symptoms you experienced and how long the symptoms lasted. He will usually order a blood test and/or perform skin-prick tests, which indicate whether food-specific antibodies (called “IgE”) are present in your body.

 

TREATMENT

Once you are diagnosed with shellfish allergy, the best treatment is to avoid the shellfish you are allergic to. Mild allergic reactions to shellfish may be treated with antihistamines to reduce signs and symptoms.

However, a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) will require an emergency injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) in the hospital.

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