What not to eat with shellfish allergy
Shellfish is an ingredient in numerous recipes, although it may not always be obvious. Be on the lookout for these dishes and ingredients in restaurants and when eating food prepared by friends or relatives:
- Gumbo (fish and shellfish stew)
- Jambalaya (Cajun rice dish often made with shrimp or crawfish)
- Ceviche (fish or shellfish in an acidic citrus marinade)
- Crevette (the French term for shrimp)
- Clamato (a clam broth and tomato juice mixture sometimes used in Bloody Mary drinks)
- Nam prik (Thai fish sauce)
- Cioppino (fish stew)
- Etouffée (Cajun crawfish dish)
- Bouillabaisse (a French fish soup)
- Scampi (contains lobster or shrimp)
- Paella (Spanish rice dish generally made with shrimp)
- Mam tom (Vietnamese fish sauce)
Types of food allergies
Food allergies are divided into 3 types, depending on symptoms and when they occur.
- non-IgE-mediated food allergy – these allergic reactions aren’t caused by immunoglobulin E, but by other cells in the immune system.
This type of allergy is often hard to diagnose as symptoms take much longer to develop (up to several hours).
- IgE-mediated food allergy – the most common type, triggered by the immune system producing an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Symptoms occur a few seconds or minutes after eating. There’s a greater risk of anaphylaxis with this type of allergy.
- mixed IgE and non-IgE-mediated food allergies – some people may experience symptoms from both types.
Read more information about the symptoms of a food allergy.
Oral allergy syndrome (pollen-food syndrome)
Some people experience itchiness in their mouth and throat, sometimes with mild swelling, immediately after eating unused fruit or vegetables. This is known as oral allergy syndrome.
Oral allergy syndrome is caused by allergy antibodies mistaking certain proteins in unused fruits, nuts or vegetables for pollen.
Oral allergy syndrome generally doesn’t cause severe symptoms, and it’s possible to deactivate the allergens by thoroughly cooking any fruit and vegetables.
The Allergy UK website has more information.
In the most serious cases, a person has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be life threatening.
Call if you ponder someone has the symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as:
- trouble swallowing or speaking
- breathing difficulties
- feeling dizzy or faint
Ask for an ambulance and tell the operator you ponder the person is having a severe allergic reaction.
Non-Food Sources of Shellfish
When you own a severe shellfish allergy, you also need to be aware of potential non-food sources of the allergen.
These can include:
- HemCon bandages (a wound dressing made from shrimp shells)
- compost or fertilizers
- pet food
- fish food
- calcium supplements made from oyster shells or coral
- omega-3 supplements (usually made from fish, but sometimes made from shellfish)
A Expression From Verywell
Fortunately, shellfish can be easier to avoid than some other allergens, since they're an expensive ingredient and therefore are likely to be celebrated, not hidden, in ingredient lists, on labels, and as part of restaurant menus. If you own any questions about which foods you should avoid, enquire your doctor for a referral to a dietitian who specializes in food allergy.
Shellfish are not the same type of creatures as fish—people with a shellfish allergy may be capable to eat fish with no problem, and people with fish allergy may be capable to consume shellfish.
Make certain to read food labels carefully, and when in doubt, don't eat the food in question.
A food allergy is when the body’s immune system reacts unusually to specific foods.
Although allergic reactions are often mild, they can be extremely serious.
Symptoms of a food allergy can affect diverse areas of the body at the same time. Some common symptoms include:
- a raised itchy red rash (urticaria, or «hives»)
- swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue and roof of the mouth (angioedema)
- an itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears
Read more about the symptoms of food allergies.
Shellfish Types: Mollusks and Crustaceans
Shellfish are divided into two families: mollusks and crustaceans.
It's possible to be allergic to just one of these two types of shellfish (for example, crustaceans), but not the other (for example, mollusks).
However, most people who are allergic to one of these actually are allergic to both. Therefore, don't eat any shellfish from either family without talking to your doctor about your allergy first.
People who are allergic to crustaceans should avoid:
- sea urchin
- crawfish (also called crayfish or crawdads)
People who are allergic to mollusks should avoid every mollusks:
- squid (calamari)
- clams (quahogs)
- surimi (imitation shellfish, often found in sushi)
- snails (escargot; both sea and land snails should be avoided)
Unfortunately, you can't believe food packaging to warn you about every shellfish.
Food labeling laws in the United States only cover crustaceans, not mollusks. Therefore, only ingredients made from crustaceans must be identified on labels with an allergy warning. This can be problematic for people who own bad allergic reactions to mollusks.
However, most food packaging will highlight (or at least spell out) mollusk ingredients, so you should be capable to identify mollusk-containing foods readily.
For example, a jar of white clam sauce almost certainly will contain clams or clam juice, so you'll know to steer clear. And fried calamari (also known as fried squid) will include calamari.
Avoiding Shellfish in Restaurants
If you own a shellfish allergy, you'll need to be extremely careful when dining out. You may desire to avoid seafood restaurants entirely since people with severe shellfish allergies own had allergic reactions simply from breathing in particles of allergens from shellfish that is being steamed, fried, or boiled.
In fact, depending on the severity of your allergy, you should consider avoiding some types of restaurants and cuisines because of the high risk of cross-contamination.
- Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, or Malaysian foods, which often include a fish sauce made from shrimp or imitation shellfish
- Cajun or Creole food, which frequently contains shrimp or other shellfish
Some restaurants may use shellfish stock as a flavoring or base for sauces or soups. Always tell your server or a manager about your allergy, and enquire if any items you're considering ordering contain shellfish.
Restaurants and Allergy Laws
What causes food allergies?
Food allergies happen when the immune system – the body’s defence against infection – mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat.
As a result, a number of chemicals are released.
It’s these chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are certain foods that are responsible for most food allergies.
Foods that most commonly cause an allergic reaction are:
- tree nuts
- some fruit and vegetables
Most children that own a food allergy will own experienced eczema during infancy. The worse the child’s eczema and the earlier it started, the more likely they are to own a food allergy.
It’s still unknown why people develop allergies to food, although they often own other allergic conditions, such as asthma, hay fever and eczema.
Read more information about the causes and risk factors for food allergies.