Seafood allergy

Contributed by : Ravina Sewani   
Seafood allergy

Seafood allergy is one of the common food allergies.

Seafood allergy is an immune response induced by the proteins present in the seafood. This is because the body perceives seafood proteins as a threat and results in an allergic reaction.

Seafood allergy, particularly fish allergies tend to stay on for life.

Seafood is broadly categorised into fish (Tuna, Cod, Flounder, etc.), Crustaceans (crabs, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, prawn, etc.) and Molluscs (squid, snails, clams, oysters, scallops, etc.).

If a child is diagnosed with a specific fish allergy, chances are (s)he may be allergic to more than one type of fish.

If a child is allergic to fish, it does not mean that they will necessarily develop allergies towards crustaceans and molluscs as well.

Confirm any type of allergy after proper diagnosis by a healthcare expert.


  • Nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing or dry cough
  • Eczema (a dry, itchy rash) or hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
  • Redness of the skin around the mouth or eyes
  • Itchy mouth, ear canal or lip swelling, odd taste in the mouth
  • Nausea or vomiting, diarrhoea or stomach pain
  • Severe reactions include loss of consciousness, chest pain, turning pale, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, or anaphylaxis.


Seek help from a healthcare expert to get your child diagnosed of the seafood allergy. The doctor will examine your child’s symptoms, medical history, family history, and may suggest a few tests like skin prick tests, blood tests or Oral Food Challenge.


  • Avoid all kinds of seafood as the intensity of the reactions varies each time. Even trace amounts of allergens in seafood can cause life-threatening reactions.
  • Always read the ingredients on food labels.
  • Avoid visiting or eating at Seafood restaurants if your child has an allergy, as the vapours from cooking fish may trigger allergic reactions in highly sensitive children.
  • Avoid taking your child to the fish market due to the risk of cross-contact or cross-contamination.
  • Always have an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) handy. Inform your child's school or caretakers about the seafood allergy and ensure they have an AAI.

Foods to avoid:

  • Pre-packed Scampi, which may contain white fish, imitation crab
  • Worcestershire/Barbecue sauces, Caesar salad dressings (may contain anchovies)
  • Even nougat or marshmallows may contain fish gelatin

Possible sources of crustaceans or molluscs are:

  • Fish Stock, sauces, soups, seafood flavourings, bouillabaisse, and cuttlefish ink
  • Fish cakes, pies, nutritional supplements
  • Fish food, pet food, fertilisers
  • Though Omega 3 fatty acids are recommended as a therapeutic option in children with allergy, fish-based Omega 3 products might still contain fish protein. Hence they need to be avoided as well.

Seafood poisoning and seafood allergy:

  • Seafood poisoning and seafood allergies are two totally different things even though their symptoms may seem similar.
  • Seafood poisoning is caused due to due to toxins and infections. The most common forms are given below:
  • Fish poisoning: Occurs after ingesting fish which is improperly frozen or poorly cooked, causing the bacteria to grow.
  • Herring worm infection: This is caused due to a parasite ingested while eating raw or pickled seafood.
  • Ciguatera Fish Poisoning (CFP): A toxin-induced seafood poisoning occurs in a child when (s)he ingests fish which contains algae toxin - ciguatoxins.
  • The treatments for seafood allergy and seafood toxins are also completely different. In seafood allergy, doctors usually prescribe antihistamine medications and adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) to children. Whereas in seafood poisoning, the medicine prescriptions are different. In any case, never give medications which haven’t been prescribed by your child’s paediatrician.

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