Allergies to Fish

Globally, fish plays an important role in human nutrition. Seafood is particularly popular in many parts of the world.  A wish for healthier eating habits and the substitution of meat with seafood has contributed to increased demands for fish and shellfish. However, fish may also contain potent allergens and cause adverse reactions in sensitized individuals.

Fish Allergies

Fish and shellfish allergies are not one in the same since an allergic reaction to fish does not always mean an allergic reaction to shellfish.

Fish allergies are usually developed in adulthood and therefore are are not as common in children. It isn’t unusual for a person who has consumed fish or shellfish for 20 or more years to suddenly develop an allergic reaction to fish.
Fish allergies are normally considered lifelong; once a person develops the allergy it is assumed they will have it for the rest of their lives.

An estimated 2.3% of North Americans — that’s nearly 9 million people — report some kind of allergy to seafood.
including fish and shellfish. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are the most frequent kinds of fish that people are sensitive to.

What are the signs and symptoms of seafood allergy?

  • Reactions are reported to be mostly within 2 hours after ingesting, touching or even inhaling seafood cooking gases.
  • Reactions that are delayed for up to 6 hours, have been reported for species of the Mollusc groups including Abalone and squid. The more common symptoms include skin, stomach, and respiratory problems.
  • Respiratory complaints are very common in vulnerable subjects following inhalation of fish or crustacean vapors, especially from food preparation.

Avoiding Allergic Reactions to Fish

The good news is, of all of the food allergens, fish and shellfish stands out as the easiest allergens to avoid,  but they can also cause the most serious allergic reactions therefore they must be taken very seriously.

  • To avoid a reaction, strict avoidance of seafood and seafood products is vital.
  • Always read ingredient labels to identify fish ingredients.
  • Avoid touching fish
  • Do not visit fish markets
  • Avoid areas where fish is being cooked – some people get reactions from breathing in cooking vapors
  • It  is recommended that if you are allergic to at least one species of fish to avoid all fish.

For those who have a fish allergy but  would like to have fish in your diet, speak with your allergist about the possibility of being tested with various types of fish.

Avoid Seafood Restaurants  And Be Very Careful in Oriental Restaurants

This is important for two reasons:

  1. The chance of cross-contamination at a seafood restaurant is extremely high
  2. Oriental Restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, etc) often use fish pastes or fish sauce as flavorings even in vegetable, noodle and non-fish or shellfish dishes.  Again the chance of cross-contamination is high.

Example of cross-contamination in restaurant food preparation:

If the restaurant serves deep fried fish or shellfish, the frier is now contaminated with fish/shellfish residue.  You order french fries. They are cooked in the same fryer as the fish or shellfish, putting you at risk for getting some of the allergen in your food, causing a mild to severe reaction.


Make your life a lot easier when it comes to fish and shellfish allergies … give me a call (Wendy — 604-839-9789) to discuss the alternatives.


Related posts:

  1. Top Eight Food Allergies

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