Overcoming seafood allergies?
July 7, 2010 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Since I was about 12 I've been allergic to seafood, after previously being fine with it. It would cause me to be really, really sick ... as in the worst case of food poisoning one could imagine, but no anaphylactic shock. I'm beginning to believe that my allergies may be specific to crab as I recently had shrimp and did not get sick. How do I test which seafood allergies I have? Anyway to do this safely?

When I originally got sick, it was blamed on food poisoning, but subsequent attempts (all in my early teens) lead to same symptoms: namely throwing up until I had nothing and then dry heaving for hours. Thinking back, all my attempts were crab-based. I tried shrimp this past weekend and did not get sick.

Any tests out there I can take? Would it be safe to try oysters or lobster?Would someone have just a crab specific allergy?

In case it is not obvious, a seafood place has opened down the street and the smells are killing me.
posted by geoff. to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Go to an allergist. They can test you safely.
posted by brainmouse at 3:09 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

brainmouse is right, an allergist can run a spectrum of tests to pinpoint any allergies. Check out About.com's guide.
posted by ista at 3:20 PM on July 7, 2010

You don't want to experiment with anaphylaxis. Just because shrimp didn't make you sick (this time) doesn't mean other shellfish won't. Go to an allergist.
posted by rtha at 3:44 PM on July 7, 2010

Allergies can sometimes become worse over subsequent exposures, and there's no way to predict how it happens. Please don't try to test this on your own.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 4:12 PM on July 7, 2010

Best answer: I have this exact same problem. When I was twelve, I got very violently ill after eating scallops on two different occasions and both times my mom or my sister had also had the same scallops and been fine. I basically didn't eat any substantial amounts of shellfish (regular fish is fine) for 13 years. However, since I was fairly sure that this wasn't a true, anaphylaxis type allergy, there were at least five occasions over the years where I had one very small bite of either shrimp, crab, or lobster and was fine.

As a result, I was not confident that a doctor would be able to give me an accurate diagnosis. Thinking that perhaps I would only react to bi-valves like scallops, oysters, and mollusks, I decided I wanted to try shrimp. I was completely confident that I would be fine. My only concern was that I would start worrying and convince myself that something was wrong, so I put it off for a while. But one day when my husband and I were driving back from the coast we passed a shrimp boat selling the freshest shrimp you can imagine and we just couldn't resist.

I decided I wanted to be cautious, so I only ate three medium sized shrimp. They were delicious. I felt fine for a little while, went to bed, and woke up horribly ill about three hours later. I am so glad that I tried this at my parent's house because my dad was able to give me an antiemetic pill (phenergan, I think) that he had in his medicine cabinet from years before and without it I don't think I would have been able to stop dry-heaving for hours.

Sorry for the long answer, but I thought my story might discourage you from doing the same thing as me and just giving it a go. If you only had a small amount of shrimp recently, it may not have been enough to trigger a reaction. One bite for me was fine. Three shrimp was not. If you do want to try seafood, I would definitely get a doctor's advice first and if he or she tells you it is okay to try eating some, definitely ask for an antiemetic prescription just in case. Having that pill really saved me that night.

To this day I wonder if describing my reaction as an allergy is truly accurate, since I don't have the typical allergy symptoms and I don't seem to react to very tiny amounts of the allergen. However, I never actually bothered to ask an allergist or even a doctor. You definitely should.
posted by horses, of courses at 4:48 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: i have a friend who is this way zucchini. he does not go into anaphylactic shock, but he hurls and dry heaves for about a day or so if he even comes into digestion based contact with a small amount of it. i am not sure if this would be classified as a true allergy, but for all intents and purposes, if your body is obviously trying so hard to reject it (and is not at all happy with it), it's probably about the same deal. it's something you can't have because it causes a violent reaction within you.

in any case, i agree with the above - i would not test this on your own. see your doctor and he will probably refer you to an allergist.
posted by koroshiya at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2010

s/b WITH zucchini. oops.
posted by koroshiya at 5:26 PM on July 7, 2010

Response by poster: horses of courses describes a near identical description to my own experiences (even the same time frame to being sick).

Rather than go head strong with an epipen, I've decided to try a desensitization, two shrimp every day, and just sort of slowly build up.
posted by geoff. at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2010

I take it you've discussed this plan with a doctor, preferably an allergist? Good, because otherwise that might be a pretty dumb idea.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:23 PM on July 9, 2010

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