Shellfish Allergies


One of the most common food allergies in the U.S. is an allergy to shellfish, which affects about 7 million Americans. Interestingly, shellfish allergies are the most common food allergies occurring in adults, and most shellfish allergies, about 60 percent, do not develop until adulthood. Recent studies show that shellfish allergies affect about 2.1 percent of American adults, but only 0.1 percent of children. Still, children can and do develop an allergy to shellfish.

Once developed, a shellfish allergy tends to be life-long, and can cause reactions ranging from very mild to quite severe. Like many food allergies, symptoms may include headaches, facial swelling and nausea, as well as an itchy mouth, hives or difficulty breathing. As with other allergies, an extreme reaction called anaphylaxis may occur, which involves a life-threatening drop in blood pressure. Because of this, it is recommended that anyone diagnosed with a shellfish allergy carry an EpiPen or similar epinephrine injector at all times. Shellfish allergies, especially allergies to crustaceans such as lobster and shrimp, tend to be particularly severe, so extra caution is highly recommended.

How about Shellfish?

Shellfish allergies are often associated with fish allergies, and the two are often grouped together into what is called “seafood allergies.” However, it should be noted that shellfish and fish are biologically distinct, so someone with a shellfish allergy will not necessarily have a reaction to exposure or ingestion of fish. The risk of cross-contamination between fish and shellfish is very high in restaurants and packing companies, and many people with a shellfish allergy are also allergic to one or more types of fish; in general, people with a shellfish allergy are advised to avoid all fish and seafood.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Shellfish


Barnacle, Crab, Crawfish (crawdad, crayfish, ecrevisse), Krill, Lobster, Langouste

Lanoustine, Moreton bay bugs, Scamp, Tomalley, Prawns, Shrimp

Also, be aware of the possibility of shellfish in the following

While you should always check labels for allergens, keep these in mind as items that may have shellfish more common than other items.

Bouillabaisse, Cuttlefish ink, Glucosamine fish stock, Seafood flavoring, Surimi


Shellfish Alternatives


There are many alternatives to shellfish so that you and your family can still enjoy making recipes that used shellfish without triggering your child’s allergy. If you have any concerns about the alternatives, ask your child’s allergist.


Meat (Beef or Turkey), Poultry, Grain, Walnuts, Flaxseed oil, Canola oil, Brussel sprouts, Spinach, Kale.

To get a fishy flavor, use kelp powder or cajun seasoning.