Advertisement
Skip navigation links
Symptoms
Diagnosis
Management
Epinephrine
Types of Food Allergies
Corn Allergy
Egg Allergy
Eosinophilic Esophagitis
Fish Allergy
Food Additive Intolerance
Meat Allergy
Milk Allergy
Oral Allergy Syndrome
Peanut Allergy
Shellfish Allergy
Soy Allergy
Tree Nut Allergy
Wheat Allergy
Cooking with Food Allergies
Avoidance Measures
FPIES
Find an Allergist

Shellfish Allergy

Shellfish is the common food allergen that more often than any other sends food-allergic people, aged 6 years or older, to the emergency department.  It’s also one of the top food allergens among adults. In fact, most people with shellfish allergy do not develop it until adulthood.  Overall, shellfish allergy affects nearly 7 million people, or about 2.3 percent of the U.S. population.

A shellfish allergy is distinctfrom an allergy to fish. Those who are allergic to shellfish do not necessarily have to avoid fish, and vice-versa.

Within the shellfish family, it is the crustacean group (e.g., shrimp, lobsters, crabs) that causes the greatest number of allergic reactions. Many shellfish-allergic people can tolerate mollusks such as scallops, oysters, clams, and mussels; however, anyone with shellfish allergy symptoms should consult with an allergist before eating any kind of shellfish.

Fortunately, shellfish is an ingredient that is rarely “hidden” in foods where you might not expect to find it. Shellfish may be found in fish stock, seafood flavoring (e.g., crab extract), sushi, and surimi. In the United States, if a packaged food contains shellfish as an ingredient, labeling regulations require the specific shellfish to be listed. These regulations apply only to crustacean shellfish, not to mollusks.

Cross-contact occurs when shellfish comes into contact with another food and their proteins mix during food preparation, cooking, orserving. Therefore, people with an allergy to shellfish should avoid seafood restaurants where cross-contact may occur, even if they intend to order a non-seafood dish. Clear communication with restaurant staff concerning a shellfish allergy is crucial to avoid a reaction caused by cross-contact. Such individuals must also be very careful when ordering fish from a fish market.

Frequently asked shellfish allergy questions

Is inhalation of fumes from cooking shellfish dangerous?

When shellfish is cooked, its proteins may become airborne, and for some sensitive individuals inhalation of the cooking vapors can cause a severe allergic reaction. As a precaution, people who are allergic to shellfish should avoid areas where shellfish is being cooked and should carry an auto-injectable epinephrine (adrenaline) device.

Will I outgrow shellfish allergy?

Shellfish allergy is usually developed later in life, and is usually a lifelong allergy.

Allergy Success Stories

Read stories of people just like you. Learn how they found relief from allergy symptoms by visiting an allergist.

Learn More »

Anaphylaxis Information

Anaphylaxis is a rare but severe allergic reaction that can be deadly. Learn more about the symptoms and emergency treatment for this dangerous condition.

Learn More »

Find an Allergist

An allergist is a doctor who has the specialized training and experience to find out what causes your allergies, prevent and treat symptoms, and help keep them under control. Find an allergist in your zip code and find relief.

Learn More »