How to Live With an Allergy to Shellfish

Three Parts:Avoiding the AllergyReacting When an Allergy StrikesBeing Prepared

If you have just developed a shellfish allergy, it can be a little scary. You may think you can only develop such an allergy in childhood, but in reality, anyone can develop one at any age. Nonetheless, the first step is to try to avoid the allergen. You should also be prepared for emergency situations so that if you do come in contact with shellfish, you have what you need and you know how to react.

Part 1
Avoiding the Allergy

  1. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 1
    Read labels. Manufacturers are not required to note it on the label if they have shellfish in them, though many of them do. In addition, items are usually not labelled for shellfish if they contain mollusks such as clams, scallops, or oysters. Therefore, it's always best to read the label.[1]
    • It's important to check all labels. While shellfish isn't often sneaked into foods, it can be in a few things that may surprise you.[2]
    • Foods that have seafood flavoring, for instance, often have shellfish in them.[3]
    • If your allergy is particularly severe, you may even have problems with sea salt.[4]
  2. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 2
    Check non-food labels, too. This step can be a bit more difficult, as not all non-food labels are required to list ingredients. However, some non-food items can contain shellfish, which in turn can give you an allergic reaction.[5]
    • For instance, lip gloss can contain shellfish.[6]
    • Pet foods and plant fertilizers can also contain shellfish, which can be important if you're handling it and your allergy is severe. Another item to watch is nutritional supplements.[7]
  3. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 3
    Avoid contact with shellfish. If you have an allergy, particularly a severe one, you should also avoid touching shellfish or even inhaling. In fact, an allergic reaction can even happen just if you breathe in particles from shellfish.[8]
    • If you're cooking for your family, skip cooking shellfish for the rest of the family even if you aren't eating it yourself. Also, try not to be in areas where shellfish are being cooked.[9]
    • Try to avoid the seafood counter at the grocery store, as getting too near could set you off.[10]
    • Not everyone's shellfish allergy is this severe. Pay attention to what you react to and what you don't.
  4. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 4
    Ask at restaurants. When you eat out, always make sure to ask what's in your food. It's best to be safe by asking rather than assuming that the food doesn't contain shellfish.[11]
    • Begin by telling the waiter you have an allergy: "Hi, I have a very severe allergy to shellfish."
    • Move on to talking about what you'd like to order: "I'd like to order the chow mein. Does that have any shellfish in it?"
    • If the waiter says he doesn't know, see if can ask: "Would you please check for me? It can't even be in the flavoring. I really appreciate it."
    • Also ask about the oil if you order something fried. Sometimes, the same oil that's used to cook, say, your chicken, could have been used to cook shrimp.[12]
  5. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 5
    Be cautious with fish. Unless you have a specific allergy to fish, you shouldn't worry about eating fish.[13] However, if you've never eaten fish before, you should be cautions when trying it or even wait until you can be tested for that allergy, just in case. Fish is genetically different from shellfish, so you or may not be allergic to both.[14]

Part 2
Reacting When an Allergy Strikes

  1. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 6
    Recognize the early warning signs. Most of the time, your reaction will begin within a few minutes of eating the first bite of food. However, sometimes, it can show up hours later.[15]
    • One symptom is a tingly tongue after eating shellfish. Other symptoms include wheezing, coughing, throat tightness, hoarseness, and trouble breathing.[16]
    • You also might break out into hives, have itchy, swollen eyes, or have swelling in your throat. Another symptom is stomach problems, such as diarrhea or vomiting. Finally, it can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.[17]
  2. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 7
    Pay attention to the onset of symptoms. If you have severe allergies, you may have what's called an anaphylaxis reaction, which is just a fancy way of saying an severe allergic reaction that could threaten your life.[18] If you know your allergies are bad, you may need to inject your epinephrine when you first have a symptom.[19] Otherwise, you will need to inject under one of these conditions:
    • You have symptoms involving your nose, mouth, skin, or stomach, as well as you are having difficulty breathing or you're feeling light-headed and dizzy (low blood pressure).[20]
    • You think you were exposed to shellfish, and you have two of these symptoms: skin problems/swelling lips, stomach issues, low blood pressure (dizziness), or trouble with breathing.[21]
    • You know you were exposed, and you start experience low blood pressure (dizziness, feeling light-headed, weakness).[22]
  3. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 8
    Inject with epinephrine. If you think you need to inject epinephrine, get out your pen. If you don't think you can do it yourself, try to talk someone else through it. Each pen is a little different, so make sure you read your instructions well ahead of needing to use a pen.[23]
    • Basically, though, you twist off the outer holder to reveal the auto-injector. You pull off the first cap, often blue, grey, or orange. On some pens, it's marked "1." You may see a red tip. Do NOT put your finger in front of the tip. Pull off the other cap.[24]
    • Place the needle end (the red tip on some pens) of the injector on the outer part of your thigh near the top and in the middle. Make sure it is going into the muscle. You can do it through clothing. Press down until you feel the needle enter you skin. Hold it for 10 seconds, then pull it out. Look at the tip to make sure the needle is extended. If it's not, you need to try again.[25]
    • You will likely see leftover fluid in the pen. That is fine, and as long as the needle extended, you received the proper dose.[26]
    • It can be helpful to show close friends and family how to use your epinephrine injector when you are in a non-emergency situation. That way, they can help should the need arise.
  4. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 9
    Go the emergency room. Though the epinephrine can save your life, it does not solve the problem of the allergic reaction. You still need to go to the emergency room. It is best to call 9-1-1 right away.[27]

Part 3
Being Prepared

  1. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 10
    Know your triggers. Shellfish is actually divided into two categories, crustaceans and mollusks. Crustaceans include shrimp, lobster, and crab. Mollusks are clams, scallops, mussels, and oysters.[28]
    • You can be allergic to one group or both. In fact, you may only be allergic to one type of shellfish and not to others, such as shrimp.[29]
    • Allergies to crustacea are usually worse than allergies to mollusks.[30]
  2. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 11
    See your doctor. If you know you have a severe allergy, it's important to see your doctor and discuss your options. If you can, see a person that specializes in allergies, as she can help pinpoint exactly what you're allergic to.[31]
    • You can develop a shellfish allergy at any time in your life. Therefore, if you start to show symptoms, it's best to get checked out.[32]
    • If you start to feel tingly in your mouth after eating shellfish, it's time to talk to your doctor.[33]
  3. Image titled Live With an Allergy to Shellfish Step 12
    Get an epinephrine pen. These pens, which inject epinephrine (adrenaline) into your body, can help you survive when you have a severe allergy attack. Ask your doctor if you need one prescribed to you.[34]
    • Some common brand names are EpiPen and Avui-Q.[35]
    • Epinephrine can save your life in the event you have a severe attack.[36]
    • Check your pen regularly, at least once a month. If you see that the liquid is cloudy or the pen is past its expiration date, get a new one.[37]

Sources and Citations


Show more... (34)

Article Info

Categories: Allergies and Immunization