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Information on Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Seafood Allergy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Seafood allergies are extremely common in men and women. Though there are a lot of different fish, shellfish is most commonly associated with allergies. When you eat certain kinds of foods, you can experience allergic reactions from them. A seafood allergy can cause allergic reactions immediately after consuming the fish. Most people are allergic to only specific types of fish and not all of them. It is important to identify which fish cause these allergies so that you can avoid the allergies completely. Most people are allergic to fish that have a shell. These seafood items include shrimps, squids, crabs, and lobsters. Some people may also be allergic to prawns. The symptoms range from mild to severe, but most people get a severe reaction from consuming seafood. These symptoms may quickly become life threatening if treatment is not administered immediately.

Tests Recommended

When you visit the doctor, the doctor would ask you several questions to get detailed medical history and information about your symptoms. You may also be given a physical examination to rule out any other health conditions. There are two main seafood allergy tests. One is the skin test, which is performed by pricking your skin and exposing it to various different sea foods. If your skin develops a rash, redness, inflammation or hives, the test is considered to be positive. This helps in identifying the exact foods which are causing the allergy. The doctor will also ask you to get a blood test. This antibody test is performed to look for antibodies that may be associated with the misfiring of the immune system. This test is known as the allergen specific IgE antibody test or the RAST test. This is an allergy screening test performed before the skin tests or the food elimination tests are administered.

Causes

The misfiring of the body's immune system causes all kinds of food allergies. Certain proteins in seafood may trigger off the immune system's reactions and are therefore, the leading seafood allergy causes. Different seafood items have different proteins which could trigger off the response. The immune system produces antibodies to these proteins, causing release of histamines that produce the allergy symptoms. Since there are different proteins in various foods, people may be allergic to one kind of seafood, but not another. However, in most cases, it is best to avoid all kinds of seafood if you are prone to developing an allergic reaction. There are three main kinds of seafood: fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. These include all kinds of fish, crabs, crayfish, lobster, prawns, shrimp, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, squids, octopus, cuttlefish, snails and periwinkles.

Symptoms

Unlike other food allergies, seafood allergy symptoms can be experienced almost immediately after consuming the food. As with all other food allergies, the skin is the first organ to get affected by the allergic symptoms. You may experience intense itching, inflammation, redness, hives, and swelling of tongue, mouth and lips. Some people may also develop eczema on their body. There may be inflammation in other parts of the body including the throat and face. This inflammation can cause the narrowing of your nasal passages and your airways, causing labored breathing. You may also experience wheezing, coughing and nasal congestion. The lack of oxygen in the body may cause the blood pressure to drop, and you may experience dizziness and lightheadedness due to it. Apart from these symptoms, you may also experience slight digestive discomfort like abdominal cramps and pains, bloating, gas, nausea, and vomiting. If the allergies are mild, you may just experience mild tingling in your mouth.

There may be severe allergic reactions to seafood as well. These are life threatening reactions that interfere with normal breathing, cutting off air intake completely. Anaphylaxis is a life threatening condition which requires immediate medical attention. A person experiencing an anaphylactic reaction requires emergency care. Unfortunately, a lot of these symptoms are just like those experienced in food poisoning. It is important for doctors to differentiate between the two, using appropriate testing procedures so that appropriate treatment can be given. Seafood allergy symptoms in children and adults are almost the same, with varying intensities.

Treatment

Like all other food allergies, the best seafood allergy treatment is to avoid any known sources of these allergies. By avoiding the seafood completely, it is easy to avoid getting any allergic symptoms. Since seafood is not used in the preparation of processed foods, it is easier to avoid this allergy. However, if you accidentally ingest any seafood that triggers the allergy, your doctor can prescribe you antihistamines to control the symptoms. For mild allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines can be used. However, for more severe allergies, you may need to get prescription medications. In case you are prone to developing severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, it is recommended that you carry an epinephrine shot with you. This shot should be administered as soon as you experience the anaphylactic symptoms.

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