Shellfish allergies

So after vacationing in SC and eating a ton of shellfish, we suspect my husband has developed a shellfish allergy. Three times he ate it, and three times he experienced, er, severe gastrointestinal distress. (If anyone was in the men’s Wendy’s restroom near Nitro, WV, he apologizes.)

At first, we thought he had a stomach virus because it passed as quickly as it came on. The night prior he’d eaten gumbo with shrimp, but he lives on that sort of food so we didn’t really connect the dots. Then he had a second episode a few nights later. Turns out he’d eaten crab dip that afternoon, and I started to go :dubious:. The third, and worse time, he was on the toilet for a half an hour and was in such pain that he thought he might have to go to the ER. He’d eaten calamari + shrimp n’ grits.

But, of course, he’d eaten and drank a ton of other food, too. He’s still not convinced it’s a seafood allergy. I’m fairly sure and I’m worried that the next time he eats shellfish, which I know will be sooner rather than later, that he will end up in the ER.

Anyone else have such an allergy? How did you figure it out? Did your symptoms get progressively worse? Can you eat it in any quantity before you have a reaction, or is it all-or-nothing?

I have a shellfish allergy, but my mother thought I was just vomiting violently after every shellfish meal for my entire childhood to piss her off. Late in life, in her 60s perhaps, my mother developed a shellfish allergy of her own. I was pleased :smiley: and *almost *came to believe in divine justice as a result.

It seemed to come on her fairly suddenly, and it took several exposures to shellfish over a considerable interval for her to recognize that she was allergic. At the start, her symptoms were milder than mine had ever been, but they did worsen with each exposure until she quit eating seafood. She was never a heavy eater, so I’m assuming her exposures were at relatively light levels.

If your husband is still uncertain whether this is an allergy, he should ask an allergist to perform a skin test or a blood test to confirm.

Clams, mussels and oysters make me projectile vomit. Scallops make me nauseated and gives me the runs. I can eat all the shrimp, crab and lobster I want with no negative effects other than the calories burp though right now my gallbladder is going toes up so the butter for the crab or lobster would send me to the bathroom fairly quickly - but just plain lemon juice is fine.

I have not tried any other shellfish so I have no idea if coquina, razor clams or any other bivalve would give me issues, but I tend to believe they would and avoid them.

I don’t have a shellfish allergy, but I’ve got a buttload of other food allergies so I’ll weigh in.

There are several ways I’ve discovered I have a food allergy. From most to least frightening they are:

  1. Break out in hives, inside of mouth swells, entire body starts swelling, cramping leading to peeing and pooping, gagging, retching, an all-over body itch from hell and start wheezing and gasping for breath. This sort of thing is very much a medical emergency. Call an ambulance, do NOT attempt to drive to the ER on your own. This is because the ambulance had people and equipment to save your life on the way if necessary and your car does not. Also, the ambulance has right of way over other traffic and your car doesn’t.

  2. Gastrointestinal distress from upset tummy to projectile vomiting and diarrhea. Will tend to get worse with each exposure

  3. Development of intensely itching rash within 24-48 hours of eating the offending substance, eczema and/or dermatitis over a substantial percentage of your hide. This is the sort of rash where the sharp, intense pain of clawing yourself bloody gives blessed relief from the itch.

Of the three choices, #1 is the “classic” food allergy but the one you want to have least. Not everyone, including not all doctors, recognize 2 and 3 although not actual allergy specialists because they’ve seen #2 and 3.

If you suspect a food allergy you have two choices:

A) Don’t eat the suspected food anymore, ever. This is the cheap solution, and if you’re adult you can usually get away with it without too much trouble. You might be wrong and needlessly avoiding something, but on the other hand, if it’s just one food item, there are a lot of other things to eat in the world.

B) Go to a doctor for formal testing. This is more certain, but it tends to be expensive, time-consuming, and uncomfortable at times. You can also be issued things like an epi-pen in the event of a future emergency like #1.

Agree about getting tested. Also, to the best of my understanding, a shellfish allergy tends to manifest as a topical iodine sensitivity/allergy as well. Ask the allergist what you may need to avoid.

Could I jump in with a question? I never had a problem with shellfish until I was pregnant. Then, two times, I had what I think is an allergic reaction. It wasn’t catastrophic in the GI department, more like “hmmm,this isn’t sitting quite right” but I also got the mouth and lips tingling and swelling, and hives. The first time was more uncomfortable than outright painful, the second time was a little more intense.

Since then, I’ve avoided shellfish, but I’m wondering if this kind of reaction could come and go with pregnancy. It would be nice if it went, but I’m a little nervous about applying the scientific method in this situation.

I developed an allergy to shellfish in precisely the manner you have described; I ate if for years without problems, and then my reaction to it become worse and worse. It was only when I was lying on my living room floor, literally unable to get up to call for help, convinced I was going to die, that I had some time to think, and it occurred to me, “hey, I’ve gotten sick the last 5 times I ate shellfish.”

I only consumed some once, some years later, by accident; I was served a bowl of gumbo that I was assured had no shrimp in it, but did. I ate just one spoonful and felt very ill the rest of the day, though I didn’t barf (I never barf.)

I won’t eat it anymore. Just being around it doesn’t bother me though, it’s not like the hordes of children who allegedly can’t be in the same room as a peanut.

Just being around it doesn’t affect me, but I really can’t stand the smell of fish or seafood after having been force-fed shellfish (and then returning it with interest) so many times. So, while AFAIK I am not allergic to freshwater fish, I still can’t eat it. That’s a shame, both because I love fishing and because fish is supposed to be a healthy food choice.

Also note that there is a second kind of “allergy-like processes” which produce many of the same symptoms as allergies but not by the same exact mechanisms: they will not get detected by the skin test unless your symptoms happen to include hives (the test is positive if it produces a hive). These processes are being called “food intolerances” and similar names. Some antihistamines do not work for intolerances at all, check the prospectus or pharmacopea before using any.

Thanks for all the feedback. He still hasn’t tested the theory, but I’ll let you know if and when he does. These adult-onset allergies are really strange!

I began taking mega red krill oil about 4 years ago in place of fish oil to control cholesterol. 2 years ago I noticed I began breaking out into hives when I ate shrimp. I began avoiding shrimp. during Lent last year I accidentally got some shrimp in a dish and the reaction was horrible cuz I ended up in the ER facing anaphylactic shock. after that I wanted to get to the bottom of why all after 66 years I can’t eat shrimp anymore. what I found was there’s a particular protein in the muscles of the shrimp that also exist in krill. so concluded taking the krill oil has caused this allergy to shrimp. has anyone else had the same experience

I think you should’ve laid off the mega-doses of krill oil. You can get flaxseed oil which contains all the goodies fish oil does, you know.

Zombie. Hey, PunditLisa, how’s your hubby doing?

Man I thought I was the only one. For years I loved mussels and ate them with impunity. Then I started getting sick to my stomach. Usually mussels are accompanied by large amounts of beer so I just figured I had drank too much or maybe they were bad mussels. Then after dining out with my GF I got super sick. We didn’t drink any oat sodas and she was totally fine so it finally clicked. I finally realized a) its always with mussels b) I can drink lots of beer and be fine. So I avoided mussels.

Fast forward a few years and I ended up developing the same thing with scallops. It’s so weird since I’ve eaten them for so long without problems. A few years back while eating sushi I was making fun of my roommate who is allergic to avocado. She in turn made fun of my inability to eat scallops. I chose to man-up and eat a tiny piece. Big mistake. It seems like after each exposure it gets worse. I’ve even had times where I’ve ordered fish tacos or something and just being fried in the same oil must be enough to set me off. It’s just like my stomach just stops digesting. I get all bloated and finally have to just boot. After which I feel great.

I told an allergist once and she said I was allergic to horses so that makes sense. I don’t go to the allergist anymore. Glad to know this isn’t just a one of a kind thing.

Also remember that a single reaction to shellfish may be an allergy to something they’ve been eating, not the creature itself. But it’s a good idea to avoid testing on yourself after a bad reaction and see an allergist instead. I’m a little sensitive to some shellfish, luckily not enough to give up eating them.

Just wanted to note that this thread is a couple years old.