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Congratulations, you have an allergy!  Sure, a diagnosis is great and all, but now what do you do?  Proper education on your allergy is going to be critical to making sure that you understand the triggers, the risks of an allergic reaction, and how your body reacts to eating the problem foods.  This is especially so in something as varied as a seafood allergy.  So, if you’ve just taken an allergy test and discovered that you have a seafood allergy, here are the basics that you are going to want to know in order to get you started.  

What is a seafood allergy?

Firstly, let’s take a moment to understand what an allergy actually is.  A seafood allergy, like any other kind of food allergy, is when you have an unusual immune response to a particular food ingredient, according to experts [1].  Food allergies are pretty common and can impact 6% of young children, and about 3-4% of healthy adults, research suggests [1].

There are two main types of allergies to understand, especially when it comes to your own allergy diagnosis.  Researchers define these as an IgE-mediated allergic reaction, and a non-IgE mediated allergy [1].  Of the two, it’s thought that IgE-mediated allergies are the most serious since they tend to involve the airways and can create reactions where sufferers are unable to breathe properly [1].

Allergies are important to define and identify as soon as possible, as a reaction from one time can differ from another.  That is, congestion during one reaction can turn into a lump in the throat, which restricts breathing during another reaction.

How common is it in Singapore?

You hear all about dairy or wheat allergies, but seafood allergies are thought to be amongst the most popular between nations, particularly fish and shellfish, research suggests [2].  This is true across all the nations, including Singapore.  

There has been a lot of research into the sudden rise and popularity of seafood allergies in the developed countries, and the results help specialists begin to understand the apparent modern rise in food allergies in general.

Studies have shown that seafood can be a sensitizer — the item responsible for triggering the immune system response — in up to 40% of children and even 33% of adults, which is more than most food allergies [3].  This is supported by additional research that explains those who eat seafood more regularly — common in countries such as Singapore — are also at a higher risk of developing seafood-related allergies [4].

In fact, there are cases that support the information that those who work in fishing or seafood processing plants (and other related workplaces) can become sensitized to seafood due to the amount of the seafood and cooking fluid produced and inhaled during handling, packaging, and preparing [4].  Those that breathe in those fumes and particles day-in and day-out as part of their careers as thought to be at a much higher likelihood of developing a seafood allergy [4].

What are the symptoms of a seafood allergy?

When living with a seafood allergy, it can be difficult to figure out what you can eat and what you can’t, especially if you’re only getting used to it.  It’s important that you learn what kinds of symptoms or reactions to expect so that you be can be prepared with the right medications to treat them as quickly as possible.  Research suggests that, across the board, symptoms can range from hives to anaphylaxis to a tingling tongue or lips, which means that reactions don’t necessarily fall into any particular category [4].  Other symptoms that you can watch out for include:

  • Swelling: This could be red raised bumps such as rashes, or it could be simply eyelids, cheeks, throats etc. that simply swell up without any clear trigger point.
  • Dizziness or mental confusion: Sometimes, there is no fainting with an allergic reaction — though it is possible — and it’s more of dizziness or sense of mental confusion.  For example, forgetting what you were talking about, hearing a ringing between your ears, or needing to sit with your head between your knees.
  • Congestion: Mild or severe, feeling as though you are suddenly blocked up or stuffed up is another sign that you’re reacting to something you’ve eaten.

As mentioned briefly above, it’s also important to remember that an allergic reaction can quickly worsen without warning.  A mild case of hives could develop into respiratory distress from one dose to another.  Certain seafood products may create stronger reactions than others, and the number of ingredients also can trigger a stronger reaction.  If you know for sure that you have a seafood allergy, the safest call is to avoid the allergen at all costs.  

Discovering that you have a seafood allergy is definitely alarming and for good reason.  However, when you get an allergy test with us, we’ll provide you with detailed results as well as advice and tips that are personalized to your results that you can get the proper support and guidance that you need to make the most out of it.  A food allergy does mean a shift, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.  

References

[1] Sicherer, S.H. and Sampson, H.A., 2006. 9. Food allergy. Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 117(2), pp.S470-S475. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0091674905019214

[2] Hajeb, P. and Selamat, J., 2012. A contemporary review of seafood allergy. Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology, 42(3), pp.365-385. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12016-011-8284-9

[3] Lopata, A.L. and Lehrer, S.B., 2009. New insights into seafood allergy. Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology, 9(3), pp.270-277. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/co-allergy/Abstract/2009/06000/New_insights_into_seafood_allergy.17.aspx 

[4] Jeebhay, M.F., Robins, T.G., Lehrer, S.B. and Lopata, A.L., 2001. Occupational seafood allergy: a review. Occupational and environmental medicine, 58(9), pp.553-562. Available at: https://oem.bmj.com/content/58/9/553.short