Seafood allergy is an allergic reaction to various proteins found in finned fish or shellfish. Unlike most food allergies that show up in childhood, oversensitive reaction to seafood mostly develops in grown-up stage. In many ways, seafood allergy is different from other allergies. It is so unpredictable that symptoms start surfacing long after the allergen is consumed or exposed to.
Seafood allergy is most common in Scandinavian and some Asian countries where seafood is a staple food. The disease afflicts more number of adults than children, and manifests with a range of symptoms.
There are two broad groups of seafood which cause allergic reaction. These include vertebrate seafood and invertebrate seafood. The former group includes fish such as rays, eels, haddocks, trout, tuna, John Dory, anchovies, herring, sardines, mackerel, cod and salmon. The latter group includes shellfish such as sea slugs, abalone, calamari, octopus, squid, oysters, clams, crayfish, crab, lobster, shrimps and prawns.
Symptoms Of Allergic Reaction To Seafood
The main trigger of seafood allergy is tropomyosin, an antibody found in seafood muscles. Tropomyosin triggers release of histamine, a chemical that leads to several mild to life-threatening symptoms.
Some significant symptoms of seafood allergy include mouth tingling, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, breathing trouble, congestion, eczema, itching, hives, dizziness or fainting and swelling of face, hands, ears, fingers, throat, lip and tongue.
A severe symptom caused by shellfish ingestion is known as anaphylaxis. A patient with this symptom undergoes conditions such as rapid pulse, swollen throat, extreme dizziness that may lead to loss of consciousness and even fall of blood pressure. An anaphylaxis reaction necessitates prompt medical attention.
What Causes Seafood Allergy?
People whose immune system responds to seafood allergens may get exposed to them through different ways. In most cases consumption is the main cause but some hypersensitive people may also over-respond when handling and cleaning the seafood or are exposed to the fumes of the food while cooking.
Allergens found in seafood are heat resistant i.e. they are not destroyed during cooking. So people who habitually consume deeply heat treated canned seafood fail to tolerate freshly cooked seafood and fall ill after consuming them.
Individuals employed in seafood processing units and chefs also tend to get contact rashes and occupational asthma due to continuous exposure to it.
Treatment For Allergic Reaction To Seafood
Best treatment of seafood allergy is complete prevention from any kind of exposure to seafood after an initial attack. Doctors recommend people with seafood allergy to keep epinephrine or EpiPen with them and self-administer it in case of unintended consumption of seafood. This medicine is known to be highly effective treatment for anaphylaxis.
Death in seafood allergy is rare but instances of death to this allergic reaction multiply than other allergic reactions. Experts say an individual with both shellfish allergy and asthma have high risk and must carry EpiPen medicine to deal with sudden emergency. Seafood lovers prone to the allergy should take great care to enquire about the menu before ordering food outside.