Fish and seafood allergy
Fish and seafood (crustaceans and molluscs) are common food allergens. Allergy to fish affects about 0.5% of the population, and allergy to other seafood affects about 1.5% of the population. These are the most common allergies in adults.
The term allergy to fish and seafood corresponds to immediate reactions to these foods which involve IgE antibodies, and that are characterized by skin, respiratory, digestive and sometimes cardiovascular symptoms (see the section on Food allergy). Some people may present similar symptoms due to food poisoning from the ingestion of certain fish that haven't been kept fresh or stored properly.
Is one allergic to all fish and seafood?
Several people allergic to fish are not allergic to other seafood (crustaceans, molluscs) and vice-versa. However, it is common to be allergic to many kinds of fish, just as it is common to be allergic to many kinds of crustaceans when one has reactions to one or two sorts. The same applies to molluscs.
How does one avoid fish and seafood?
As for most other food allergies, treatment always begins with avoidance. Certain very allergic people can even react to the odors associated with the cooking or manipulation of these foods. In addition to informing those around you and taking precautions to avoid contamination, you must attentively read all food labels, since fish and seafood protein can be found in many different foods. Other names may be used to designate fish and seafood (see the site of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for a list).
What is the evolution of an allergy to fish and seafood?
In the majority of cases, an allergy to fish and seafood is persistent and lifelong, although several cases of the allergy disappearing have been reported.
Nha Uyen Nguyen-Luu, MD FRCPC
(translation: Andrew Moore, MD FRCPC)