allergy, antihistamines, blood test, coral calcium supplement, cross-contamination, epinephrine injection, glucosamine, itchiness, IV dye, labeling laws, lotions, omega-3, shellfish allergy, skin prick test
People with shellfish allergies can get relief from antihistamine tablets such as loratadine (Claratin) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Lotions such as Calamine or Caladryl ease the itchiness associated with hives. Another way is to put ice on the hives as this shrinks the blood vessels and reduces swelling. Milk of magnesia may help reduce symptoms, as can peppermint tea. For severe symptoms, it might be possible to receive an epinephrine injection from your doctor. It’s always best to see a doctor while the symptoms are present.
Skin and blood tests can be conducted for shellfish allergy. With skin prick tests, you can be tested for allergies to each type of shellfish. A blood test can measure antibodies in the blood to see how the immune system responds to shellfish protein. It’s also a good idea to wear an alert bracelet.
People with allergies to shellfish have to be careful to avoid a range of situations and prepared foods. The best way for sufferers to avoid shellfish allergies is of course to avoid shellfish altogether, but this can be difficult. If you eat at restaurants, you need to be aware of the possibilities for cross-contamination. A chef may use the same pans and utensils for cooking shellfish and other food such as fries or chicken, or these foods might be cooked in the same oil. Cross-contamination can occur in factories too, where equipment used for one product is then used for another. Beware of foods that may contain shellfish, such as bouillabaisse, fish stock, flavourings, cuttlefish ink, surimi, etouffee, gumbo, cioppino, jambalaya, chili, and various sauces and dressings.
Some people can become quite ill after consuming no more than a trace of shellfish. Or they can be affected by the steam from the cooking process, as the allergy-causing proteins can be airborne. This applies equally in restaurants and at home. If someone in the household is allergic to shellfish, it is best to move them well away from the kitchen when another family member is cooking shellfish. Further, symptoms can occur merely from handling or touching shellfish.
It might be a good idea to avoid coral calcium supplements as these have the same protein as shellfish. Omega-3 may contain shellfish, although fish is more usual, such as cod liver. Also avoid food containing gelatin.
Glucosamine is a food supplement for arthritic patients that is often put forward as a problem for people with shellfish allergies. But this is rarely the case as it is made of crustacean shells as distinct from the flesh, which is the location of the problem proteins. Vegetarian glucosamine is available in any case. Glucosamine actually occurs naturally in the body and helps repair healthy cartilage.
Some sources say there is an allergy connection between IV dye and shellfish. This is a myth. The only connection is that both contain iodine. Reaction from IV dye isn’t really an allergic reaction as the dye causes histamine release without assistance from allergic antibodies.
Labeling laws were changed in the United States in 2006 with the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, which specifically relates to crustacean shellfish among other foods that typically cause allergies. Labeling laws now require labels to be in plain, simple English that a seven-year-old can read. The term “may contain traces” has been banned. Instead, products that include shellfish have to state this on the label as “contains …” either separately in bold or after other ingredients. Shellfish isn’t usually a hidden ingredient in food products at any rate. Food labeled as Kosher will have no shellfish, in line with the Kosher diet.
Shellfish allergy and its symptoms can be quite alarming. Symptoms range from unpleasant hives and swelling to life-threatening whole-of-body reactions. Avoiding seafood altogether is the best option. Care should be taken when eating at restaurants. Check the ingredients on food labels. Your doctor will be able to offer appropriate treatment, including tests and medication.