Shrimp is one of the most commonly found seafood. It is a type of shellfish. Shrimp allergy falls into the category of commonly occurring food allergy. Allergy to shrimp tends to remain a lifelong problem.
What is shrimp allergy?
Shrimp allergy is basically a hypersensitivity reaction to a type of shellfish called shrimp. It occurs in 1 per cent population globally, primarily affecting the teenagers and adults. If it occurs in children, 20 per cent of them outgrow it at a later stage.
Causes of shrimp allergy
Shrimp allergy is yet another instance of the malfunctioning of immune system. The human immune system fails to recognize the proteins found in shrimp and render them harmful while they are actually harmless. It launches an attack against the foreign invaders by producing antibodies. During the second exposure of the antigenic particles to the antibodies, the protein particles are engulfed by the antibodies and the immune system is signaled to release histamines and other chemicals triggering allergic reactions in the body. The human digestive system is partially responsible for all the fuss because undigested proteins travel all the way to the bloodstream and finally to the target organs giving rise to allergic reactions throughout the body.
Symptoms of shrimp allergy
Signs and symptoms of shrimp allergy vary from mild irritations to life-threatening anaphylaxis reactions.
The overall symptoms include the following:
- Tingling sensation in the tongue and mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Swelling and itchiness of skin
- Swelling of throat, lips, face, tongue, ears, hands and fingers
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty to breathe
Anaphylaxis symptoms of shrimp allergy
Anaphylaxis symptoms include the following:
- Constriction of airways and troubled breathing
- Extreme dizziness
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Diagnosis & Tests for shrimp allergy
Diagnosis is the utmost important stage in the lifecycle of a disease. The same concept holds significance in shrimp allergy as well. Correct diagnosis leads to correct treatment. Therefore, during the onset of symptoms, one should seek help from formal allergy diagnostic centers to attain a clear picture.
The methods of diagnosis include the following:
Skin prick test
In this method of diagnosis, first of all the skin is pricked with the help of a needle and then a small extract of allergen (shrimp protein) is placed on the pricked portion to check the after-effect. If a raised bump develops at the pricked portion, the individual is allergic to shrimp else not.
It tests an individual’s immune system response to shrimp proteins by calculating the amount of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the bloodstream. It is also known as radioallergosorbent (RAST) test or allergen-specific IgE antibody test.
There are various factors, which put individuals at risk of developing allergy to shrimp. These factors are discussed below:
If allergy of any type is common in the family, there is a considerable risk of developing shrimp allergy for the other members.
Adults are at increased risk of developing allergy to shrimp as compared to children.
Shrimp allergy is more common in adult women than in men. On the other hand, if shrimp allergy occurs in children, boys are affected more than girls are.
Developing shrimp allergy is common in areas where seafood is consumed on a regular basis, such as Scandinavia and Asia.
Shrimp allergy can lead to severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction. It is a fatal form of allergic reaction marked by constriction of airway, extreme difficulty to breathe, rapid or severe drop in pulse, shock, lightheadedness, dizziness or loss of consciousness.
Shrimp allergy coupled with asthma or extreme sensitivity to shrimp or any history of food-induced anaphylaxis heightens the risk of anaphylaxis reaction.
Allergies associated with shrimp allergy
Other seafood allergies are closely associated with shrimp allergy. It is not necessary that if a person is allergic to shrimp, he would be allergic to other species belonging to the category of seafood. But, due to cross-contact and cross-reactivity, chances of developing allergy to other varieties of seafood are quite high.
Treatment of shrimp allergy
The best way to treat shrimp allergy is to avoid shrimp completely. It might be difficult to avoid it completely while dining out due to high risk of cross contact. On the basis of diagnosis, it is advisable to consult the allergist regarding the list of seafood that should be avoided besides shrimp.
Oral immunotherapy is currently unavailable as a treatment to shrimp allergy. Intensive research is going on to discover a reliable treatment method soon.
Mild skin irritations can be treated with the help of over-the-counter anti-histamine medications and dosages having steroid content. Severe anaphylaxis can be managed at an initial stage with the help of injections of epinephrine (adrenaline). For a complete follow-up, a trip to the emergency room is mandatory. People who are prone to anaphylaxis should carry auto-injectors of epinephrine all the time with them.
Dietary changes and caution
Elimination diet should be the first and foremost look out for every individual suffering from shrimp allergy. If the concerned allergist permits to have other varieties of seafood, one should be extremely careful while purchasing it from the market because there is always a risk of cross contact associated with it. Same level of caution should be maintained while dining out at a restaurant. Seafood restaurants should be avoided at large. If avoiding an authentic seafood restaurant is difficult, it should be ensured that the food one is having devoid of the allergen. This can be done by raising polite questions to the concerned authority.
While purchasing any foodstuff, reading labels should be brought into a habit. In case of any doubt, one should feel free to get in touch with the manufacturer. This would not only help in managing the allergy in a better and effective way but also get an individual rid of the hazardous consequences of shrimp allergy.