Such savory seafood like shellfish has occupied a firm place in our lives. Many species of shellfish are suitable for human consumption because they comprise a large quantity of healthful compounds necessary for a person. This type of seafood found the place in the food industry, cosmetology and medicine.
Despite these advantages, shellfish belong to the obligate allergens and take a leading place, along with peanuts in the number of serious allergic manifestations and anaphylaxis. The major allergens that provoke the response of the organism are tropomyosin and an enzyme arginine kinase. The immune system discriminates these substances as pernicious, thus, inducing the production of antibodies to the proteins, which causes the signs of an allergy. The sickness may appear either to all of the shellfish or to specific types of them. Shellfish include marine organisms with shells, such as crabs, shrimp, squid, lobsters and octopus.
It has been established that 75% of allergy sufferers who have a hypersensitivity to one of the species of crustaceans are allergic to shellfish too. This is explained by the fact that this marine fauna has very similar proteins in structure and if the person possesses the allergy to crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans, it is fully potential that the body will also respond to the oysters, squid and mussels.
Besides, if any of the family members have allergic diseases such as asthma or allergic rhinitis, the risk e of food allergies increases as well. Also, if one or both parents have this problem, the chances of the appearance of illness are even higher.
Shellfish Allergy Symptoms
The consequences of eating allergenic shellfish can be very different. In most cases, this allergic reaction arises in the oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract or on the skin within the first hours or even minutes after the consumption of the product in the form of:
- A dermal itch, redness of the skin, urticaria, eczema and skin lumps;
- Swollen lips, face, tongue or throat;
- Diarrhea, pain in the stomach and vomiting;
- Dysphonia (difficulty or pain that occurs while speaking);
- Tingling in the mouth;
- Symptoms of low blood pressure (dizziness, lightheadedness);
- Stridor (wheezing);
- Flushed face;
- Wheezing, nasal congestion and shortness of breath.
Anaphylaxis is a hazardous allergic response to shellfish: it can be life-threatening if it interferes with breathing. The anaphylactic reaction needs the treatment with epinephrine injection and emergency medical care. The signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Increased heart rate;
- Loss of consciousness, dizziness;
- Shock with a sudden drop in blood pressure;
- Swelling of the throat and a lump in the throat (narrowing of the respiratory tract).
The symptoms differ from adverse reactions to the toxins or bacteria. Unlike allergies, food poisoning is not immediately involved in the immune system and only emerges when the patient eats commodity that has been contaminated. Usually, shellfish allergy happens every time if consume a distinct type of shellfish that induces a reaction.
Diagnostics and Treatment of Shellfish Allergy
People should instantly consult a specialist if any manifestations appear shortly after eating an allergenic product.
The patient can be more or less allergic to certain kinds of seafood, thus, the doctors do tests to indicate which category of seafood should be avoided from the dietary intake:
Skin test: the allergist injects various protein sources under the skin. The bumps on the skin indicate that there is sensitivity to a certain source of protein.
Blood test: blood is tested in the medical laboratory by measuring sensitivity to a diversity of protein sources of seafood.
The basic point the patient must do with an allergy to shellfish is to reject the use of any fish and crustaceans: crab, lobster and shrimp. There are 3 categories of shellfish, which should be avoided:
- Cephalopods: squid, octopus;
- Gastropods: snail;
- Bivalve molluscs: mussels, oysters, scallops.
The protein that is contained in shellfish can be replaced by the milk, eggs, meat and beans. Iodized food salt can be used as a source of iodine. Essential fatty acids are maintained in nuts, vegetable oils, sprouts and seeds.
The patient needs to keep medicine against allergy to take them if the condition of health worsens after the use of seafood. It must be stressed, that any medications should be prescribed only by the specialist, who appoints the treatment after the diagnostics.
a) Antihistamines – are usually very effective in reducing the symptoms and preventing the early signs of decline in health: itching, redness of the skin.
b) The injection of adrenaline – is used when the patient experiences a serious attack of allergy to shellfish with such manifestations:
- Shortness of breath;
- Throat swelling;
- Wheezing or repetitive dry cough;
- Chest tightness;
This drug helps quickly to overcome the symptoms but the injections must be administered only by a health worker.
Allergy suffers must not only eliminate the use of the allergenic product but also follow some rules to avoid undesirable manifestation of the illness.
- be attentive while eating in restaurants, cafes and other public places. Shellfish protein may be contained in air, oil or dishes, even if the ordered meals do not include seafood. The fish will not cause an allergic reaction if the person has a sensitivity to shellfish, as they are biologically different. But while eating in a seafood restaurant there is a high risk of cross-contamination of food with traces of shellfish.
- study the labels of the products: the companies have to clearly indicate any product which contains even a small quantity of shellfish or other ingredients, which often stimulate allergic reactions.
- stay away from allergen: some people overreact to the smell of shellfish, that is why it is suggested to avoid the rooms where this seafood is cooked, as a certain amount of marine organisms may be in the air while preparing meals.
To conclude, it is possible to live with a food allergy, it is only essential to exclude some meals, know how to combine different products and eat enough varied food.