The allergy to shellfish is an unusual reaction of the immune system of the body in response to specific marine animals. The marine animals that fall under the shellfish category include mollusks and crustaceans like lobster, shrimp, crab, and oysters. They also include squid, and scallops, among others.
People with a shellfish allergy react to all types of shellfish, while others are sensitive to specific varieties. The symptoms can range from mild – such as an itchy nose or hives, to extreme and life-threatening.
If you suspect that you suffer from an allergy to shellfish, speak with your physician. Testing can help determine the allergy and allow you to be prepared for any future reactions.
Allergies to shellfish typically manifest within minutes or an hour after eating shellfish. They may include:
- Hives, itching or eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Allergies can result in a severe, life-threatening reaction, known as anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic reaction to shellfish or anything else is an emergency medical situation that requires treatment using an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline), as well as an appointment to the emergency room.
Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- A swollen throat or a lump in your throat (airway constriction) that makes it difficult for you to breathe
- Shock, with a severe drop in your blood pressure
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
Prevention: If you suffer from a shellfish allergy, the best solution to prevent the possibility of an allergy is to stay away from any shellfish or products made from shellfish. Even small levels of shellfish could cause severe reactions in certain individuals.
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