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Living with a fish or shellfish allergy

Fish allergy affects about 1 in 200 people, while shellfish allergy affects around 1 in 100 people.

Seafood allergies are thought to be the most common food allergy trigger after nuts.

Being allergic to one class of seafood doesn't mean a person won't be able to tolerate any seafood.

As well as fish and seafood dishes, seafood may be used as an ingredient in other foods, including sauces, salad dressings, and pastes.

Fish allergy

If you have a fish allergy, strictly avoiding fish and food containing fish products is the only way to prevent a reaction. If your doctor is able to identify exactly which type of fish causes your allergies, then you need only eliminate that species of fish from your diet. However, for the majority of people with fish allergies, this is not an option, and all fish must be avoided.

Examples of foods containing fish include:

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Caesar salad
  • Caviar
  • Roe (fish eggs)
  • Imitation seafood, often used in sushi

It is wise to avoid seafood restaurants if you have a fish allergy. Even if you order a non-fish meal, your food may become contaminated with fish proteins from a cooking utensil, cooking oil, or a grill exposed to fish.

Shellfish allergy

If you have a shellfish allergy, the only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid all shellfish and food containing shellfish. If your doctor is able to identify exactly which type of shellfish causes your allergies, then you need only eliminate that variety from your diet. For the majority of people with shellfish allergy, however, this is not an option, and all shellfish must be avoided.

Examples of shellfish include:

  • Abalone
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Crayfish
  • Lobster
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Prawns
  • Cockles
  • Sea-urchin
  • Mussels

Be careful with fried foods. Some restaurants use the same oil to fry prawns, chicken, and French fries. Also, bear in mind that imitation shellfish may be dangerous as many manufacturers add real shellfish for flavouring. Before you use it, read the label to be sure.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 25, 2017

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