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Shellfish Allergy

What Is Shellfish Allergy?

Shellfish allergies are the most common food allergies in adults and among the most common food allergies in children. Shellfish allergies are usually lifelong. About 60 percent of people with shellfish allergy experience their first allergic reaction to shellfish as adults.

When a person with an allergy to a particular shellfish is exposed to that shellfish, proteins in the shellfish bind to IgE antibodies made by the person’s immune system. This triggers the person’s immune defenses, leading to reaction symptoms that can be mild or very severe.

There are two groups of shellfish: crustaceans (such as shrimp, crab and lobster) and mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters, scallops and octopus). Allergy to crustaceans is more common than allergy to mollusks, with shrimp being the most common shellfish allergen for both children and adults.

Finned fish and shellfish are not closely related. Being allergic to one does not always mean that you must avoid both, though care is needed to prevent cross-contact between fish and shellfish.

About 60 percent of people with shellfish allergy experience their first allergic reaction as adults.

Living with Shellfish Allergy
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Gupta RS, Warren CM, Smith BM, Blumenstock JA, Jiang J, Davis MM, Nadeau KC. The Public Health Impact of Parent-Reported Childhood Food Allergies in the United States. Pediatrics 2018; 142(6):e20181235

Gupta RS, Warren CM, Smith BM, Jiang J, Blumenstock JA, Davis MM, Schleimer RP, Nadeau KC. Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among US Adults. JAMA Network Open 2019; 2(1):e185630.doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5630.

Sicherer SH, Munoz-Furlong A, Sampson HA. Prevalence of seafood allergy in the United States determined by a random telephone survey. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2004; 114(1):159-65.

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