Seafood allergies are among the most common of food allergies, affecting an estimated 2 to 3 percent of all adults. These can include allergies to shellfish (like crabs and lobster), as well as to tuna, salmon, and other fish. These allergies can develop in childhood or adulthood. All food allergies are caused by the body misidentifying food as harmful, triggering the immune system to produce antibodies that attack the protein in the food.
Those affected by seafood allergies may be allergic to finned fish (such as tuna or cod), shellfish (like shrimp, crab, lobster, and clams), or both categories. Some with food allergies are only allergic to certain varieties of shellfish, since each type contains a different protein that may or may not be recognized as an allergen by the body.
Those affected by seafood allergies may experience severe reactions known as anaphylaxis. This serious reaction results in low blood pressure and difficulty breathing, among other symptoms. While anaphylaxis due to seafood allergies is rare, it can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical treatment.
Other allergy sufferers are afflicted less severely, and experience mild symptoms such as skin rashes, swelling, nasal congestion, nausea, and dizziness after eating or touching seafood. Allergic reactions to food, including seafood, is commonly treated using epinephrine contained in a self-injector such as an Epi-Pen.
If you believe you have a seafood allergy, talk to your doctor. Allergy tests can confirm the diagnosis so that you can take steps to avoid your allergen in the future.