Fish is one of the world’s eight most common food allergens, impacting approximately 1% of people worldwide.
People allergic to seafood may experience a broad range of mild to severe symptoms as part of an allergic reaction, including breaking out in an itchy skin rash.
If you or your loved ones are affected by seafood allergies, throughout this post, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about:
- The causes of an allergic reaction to seafood
- The main symptoms of a seafood allergy
- How best to treat and soothe your food allergy symptoms
Keep reading to learn more about the risks of seafood consumption and how best to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Why Does Seafood Cause an Allergic Reaction?
Fish allergies are caused by an overreactive immune system response to the proteins found within certain marine animals, including fish and shellfish such as oysters, mussels, shrimps, and crabs.
Many products, such as Worcestershire sauce, specific curry pastes, and other marinades, also include fish stock or fish sauce, so you must read food labels carefully.
How Does An Allergic Reaction Work?
For people who are allergic to seafood, in response to ingesting (or in some cases, touching or inhaling) these proteins, your body will release histamine and other defensive chemicals into your blood-stream, triggering an allergic reaction to help ‘protect’ your body against the perceived threat.
These defensive chemicals are responsible for many symptoms associated with an allergic reaction, ranging from mild signals such as hives or a sniffly nose to more severe and life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Seafood allergies are relatively common, particularly across Asia and Scandinavia, where fish is integral to cultural diets.
Typically, fish allergies tend to affect adults rather than young children.
You are more at risk of developing a seafood allergy if you have a personal or family history of allergies to other foods, such as wheat, nuts, eggs, or cow’s milk. Due to the phenomenon of the atopic march, studies have shown that people with asthma and eczema are also more at risk of developing food allergies.
Seafood Allergy Symptoms
The early signs of an allergic reaction to seafood typically occur within a few minutes to an hour after eating or having contact with fish.
Some of the most common milder symptoms are:
- Itchy skin
- A blocked or runny nose
More severe symptoms may include allergic and toxic reactions such as:
- Swelling across your lips, face, tongue, and throat (sometimes this may happen across other parts of the body, too)
- Stomach pain, including diarrhea and vomiting
- Dizziness or fainting caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure
- Trouble breathing, including wheezing, coughing, tightness in the throat, choking, and anaphylaxis
We urge you to seek emergency treatment immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
Getting A Diagnosis
Because fish and shellfish can trigger a severe allergic reaction, it’s important to seek diagnosis early from an allergy specialist.
How Do The Tests Work?
Most food allergies tend to be diagnosed using the skin prick test method, where a doctor or nurse places a small drop of the possible allergen on your skin to test for a reaction.
Your allergist may also invite you to complete an oral food challenge, where you’ll be supported to eat small amounts of fish or a fish product under strict medical supervision. Your doctor might also ask you to take a blood test to monitor your body’s reaction to eating fish more closely.
What’s The Value of Allergy Testing?
Allergy testing can be an empowering step in the right direction for many people, helping you better understand which type of fish you’re most allergic to and creating a personally tailored treatment plan to give you peace of mind.
How To Manage a Seafood Allergy
Managing life with a seafood allergy requires a two-pronged approach:
- To prevent contact with fish and shellfish in the first place
- To treat your symptoms as and when an allergic reaction occurs
One of the best ways to prevent an allergic reaction to seafood is to eliminate specific fish and shellfish types from your diet. As part of this, we’d recommend the following:
Reading Food Labels
Fish stock, cause, and raw fish can be found in unusual food products and sauces, so read food labels carefully before consuming new products.
You’ll be relieved to know that under the Consumer Protection Act of 2004, manufacturers of packaged food products containing fish or a fish product are legally obliged to declare this on the ingredient label.
Avoiding Cross Contamination
If you’re dining out, always check with restaurant staff to ensure that the kitchen utensils used for cooking fish and shellfish aren’t also used for other food preparation, creating cross-contamination.
If your allergy is severe, you may also need to avoid open-air kitchens where you could inhale fumes from cooking fish.
Treating Allergic Reactions
Suppose you or your loved one suffers from severe allergies to fish or shellfish. In that case, your allergist may encourage you to wear a medical alert bracelet and to carry an epinephrine auto-injector, which helps reverse anaphylaxis’s life-threatening effects.
But how do you treat some milder seafood allergy symptoms, such as itchy skin or hives? We’ve got a few ideas for you:
Use A Soothing Moisturizer
Hives are characterized by itchy, raised welts or bumps that can appear anywhere on the body. While scratching is very tempting, this can make itching even worse, so to support your skin’s natural healing process, we’d recommend finding an anti-itch moisturizer instead.
This Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream is made from anti-inflammatory manuka honey, olive oil, and profoundly moisturizing beeswax, helping to reduce skin rash swelling and minimize itching. Rub this buttery balm into any affected areas for fast, calming results.
Wear Gentle Clothing
Particularly if you’re suffering from a more severe allergic skin rash, we recommend wearing soft, hypoallergenic clothing to avoid making itching worse.
These 100% Organic Cotton Closed Eczema Mittens for Adults are an excellent way to reduce scratching, particularly while you’re trying to sleep. The mid-weight cotton protects the skin without being too hot, while a double layer of protection around the wrist protects sensitive skin.
Pair with the Organic Cotton Adult Pajamas Pant for full-body protection.
Try Wet Wrapping
Wet wrapping is a traditional technique to provide targeted relief from intense itching and to hydrate the skin deeply.
If fish or shellfish have caused you to break out in a particularly angry rash, try slathering your skin with a gentle moisturizer and wrapping the affected area with a damped cloth to help lock in all that hydrating goodness.
The Remedywear™ Eczema and Psoriasis Sleeves (Bandages) are particularly useful as they’re made from eco-friendly TENCEL embedded with anti-inflammatory zinc oxide.
Keep Safe From Fish Allergies Today
Follow these tips to help you better understand how seafood might impact your health today, taking proactive action to manage and treat your symptoms safely and effectively.