Finned Fish Can Cause Allergic Reactions, Too

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If you suddenly develop a fish allergy as an adult, you’re not alone.

Unlike other food allergies, which typically first appear in babies and young children, an allergy to fish may not occur until adulthood and is usually lifelong.

While less common than other types of food allergies, an allergy to finned fish can trigger a potentially life-threatening reaction.

How a Fish Allergy Is Diagnosed

There are several ways your allergist (a doctor who treats allergic diseases) can test for a fish allergy:

  • Skin-prick test: A small amount of liquid containing fish protein is placed on your back or forearm, then pricked with a small, sterile probe. A raised, red spot that forms within 15 to 20 minutes may mean you have an allergy.
  • Blood test: A lab tests a small sample of your blood for an allergic reaction to protein from the type of fish that may be the cause of the allergic reaction.
  • Oral food challenge: If a skin-prick or blood test isn’t definitive, your allergist may order an oral food challenge. You’ll eat a small amount of fish to see if you have an allergic reaction. Because a reaction could be severe, this test is conducted under medical supervision at your allergist’s office or at a food challenge center with emergency equipment and medication on hand.

Treating And Managing a Fish Allergy

If you have a fish allergy, take these steps to protect yourself from a serious allergic reaction:

  • Avoid fish and fish products.
  • Read food labels carefully.
  • Avoid seafood restaurants, where there is a high risk of food cross-contact.
  • Stay out of areas where fish is cooked, as fish protein can be released into the air during cooking.
  • Always carry an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector (like an EpiPen) with you to treat symptoms of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that makes breathing difficult and can cause the body to go into shock.

Be Aware Of Unexpected Sources Of FishP-W-WMN02718-Finned-Fish-Allergies-sm

Fish can show up in some surprising places. Read food labels and avoid foods such as:

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Bouillabaisse
  • Caesar dressing and Caesar salad
  • Imitation crab or fish
  • Seafood flavorings
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Certain cuisines, especially Asian and African

If You’re Allergic To Finned Fish, Can You Eat Other Types?

If you have an allergy to one type of fish, you may be able to safely eat other kinds. Your allergist can help you determine whether other varieties are safe to eat.

Keep in mind that finned fish and shellfish, such as shrimp and lobster, are not related. If you’re allergic to a finned fish (like tuna, halibut, or salmon), it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to avoid shellfish. Always talk to your allergist before trying other types of fish or seafood.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.

Small Steps: Read the Label
Fish and fish products can show up in unexpected places, so always check food labels.