Shellfish allergy is a type of food allergy that occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly identifies shellfish as a harmful substance and mounts an immune response. Shellfish include a variety of seafood, such as shrimp, crab, lobster, and oysters. Shellfish allergy is one of the most common food allergies and can occur at any age.
Symptoms of a shellfish allergy can range from mild to severe and can occur within a few minutes to a few hours after consuming shellfish. Mild symptoms may include skin rashes, hives, and itching. More severe symptoms may include difficulty breathing, throat tightening, and a drop in blood pressure, which can lead to shock and potentially be life-threatening. This type of severe reaction is known as anaphylaxis.
The exact cause of shellfish allergy is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to genetics and environmental factors. People who have a family history of allergies or have other allergies, such as asthma or eczema, may be more likely to develop a shellfish allergy.
The best way to prevent a reaction to shellfish is to avoid consuming it and products that contain shellfish. This can be challenging, as shellfish and shellfish products are commonly found in a variety of foods, including soups, sauces, and processed foods. It is important to read food labels carefully and to be aware of potential cross-contamination, where shellfish or shellfish products may come into contact with other foods during the manufacturing process.
If you or someone in your care has a shellfish allergy, it is important to have an action plan in place in case of a reaction. This may include carrying an epinephrine injector (also known as an epi-pen) and wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace. It is also important to inform friends, family, and caregivers about the allergy and to be prepared to seek medical attention if a reaction occurs. There is currently no cure for shellfish allergy, and the only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid shellfish and products containing shellfish. However, there are several treatments available to manage reactions and reduce the severity of symptoms. These may include antihistamines to relieve allergy symptoms and epinephrine to treat severe reactions.
In conclusion, shellfish allergy is a common food allergy that can range from mild to severe. It is important to be aware of the potential for a reaction and to take steps to avoid shellfish and products containing shellfish. If a reaction does occur, it is important to have an action plan in place and to seek medical attention if necessary. If you need diagnosis and guidance for shellfish allergy, consult a board-certified allergist like Sandra A. Ho, MD at Avant Allergy in Los Angeles CA.