Having Dungeness crab on Turkey Day is a great Bay Area tradition, but for people with shellfish allergies it can be a challenge!

Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening. The most common symptoms of a food-allergic reaction include hives, itchy rash, swelling, itching, tingling, swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth, vomiting, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea. Other symptoms may include coughing, trouble breathing, wheezing, drop in blood pressure, or loss of consciousness. Though most symptoms occur within minutes of eating the allergy causing food, reactions can present up to two to four hours later. The specific type of symptoms that occur during a food-allergic reaction can be hard to predict. In addition, what may initially appear to be a mild reaction may quickly turn more severe and dangerous.

What is unique about a shellfish allergy is that although it can occur in people of any age, it tends to develop in adulthood rather than childhood. Once they have developed, shellfish allergies tend to be lifelong. It is important to recognize that having a shellfish allergy is different than having a seafood or fish allergy. Many people who are allergic to shellfish are still able to eat finned fish because they are not the same biologically.

Crab on Turkey Day

Shellfish allergies occur when the body's immune system reacts against the proteins present in these animals. When someone with an allergy has exposure to the protein, the immune system goes into overdrive and tries to fight off what it sees as a foreign invader. Part of this reaction involves the release of histamine, which is a chemical that causes the symptoms of the allergy. For this reason, antihistamines can be effective against allergic reactions.

It is important for people to be aware of the symptoms of an allergic reaction, even those who have not reacted to shellfish or other foods before. Administering epinephrine when clinically indicated at an early stage of the reaction can help prevent it from becoming worse and potentially deadly. It is important to know what steps to take in the event of an allergic reaction and every second counts.

When going out to eat, it is very important to let the host or restaurant staff know about a food allergy beforehand as there may be a potential risk of cross-contamination of food dishes or cooking materials. Someone with a severe allergy may even need to stay away from the fumes or vapors that can come out of a kitchen where people are preparing shellfish dishes.

If you or a loved one have experienced a reaction to certain foods in the past and/or have been told that there is a food allergy concern and you would like to know if you have an allergy to these foods, please contact our office and set up an appointment to discuss this with one of our Allergists.

Holiday schedule at The Allergy & Asthma Clinic

In observance of Thanksgiving Day, the Clinic will be closed Thursday November 28th and Friday November 29th. We will be open Saturday, November 30th, 9am-11:30am for allergy shots.

In observance of the Christmas Holiday, the Clinic will be closed on Tuesday December 24th and Wednesday December 25th.

We will be open on Tuesday December 31st, 9am-11:30am for allergy shots. In observance of New Year’s the Clinic will be closed on Wednesday January 1st.

All of us at The Allergy & Asthma Clinic wish you and your loved ones a Happy Healthy Holiday Season!

Download November 2019 Newsletter (opens in PDF)