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What to know about Shellfish Allergies

By Nicole Galan

The main symptoms of a shellfish allergy vary, but they can include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

These symptoms can occur within minutes of ingesting shellfish, but they may sometimes not appear for several hours.

There are two different types of shellfish:

  1. Crustaceans: Shrimp, crab, lobster

  2. Mollusks: Clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, squid, octopus

Some people are allergic to one type of shellfish, while others are allergic to both. Most people with a shellfish allergy seem to be allergic to crustaceans, and the reactions to these foods tend to be more severe.

The doctor may recommend that people with any type of shellfish allergy avoid all shellfish due to the risk of cross-contamination or the development of new allergies.


The symptoms of a shellfish allergy may include:

  • indigestion

  • vomiting

  • stomach pain

  • diarrhea

  • wheezing

  • shortness of breath

  • coughing

  • a tight throat or a hoarse voice

  • pale or blue discoloration of the skin

  • an itchy rash, or hives

  • swelling in the mouth or throat

  • dizziness

  • confusion

  • loss of consciousness

The symptoms of a shellfish allergy can vary among individuals and from one reaction to another. Sometimes, a reaction can be very mild and short, and other times, it can be more severe and last longer.

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