Seafood allergies are the most common food allergies They occur when someone’s immune system mistakenly interprets proteins contained in fish such as anchovies as a harmful substance, according to The Online Allergist, a website written and edited by Board-certified allergists 1.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Symptoms of fish allergies are similar to symptoms of other food allergies and affect the digestive system, skin and respiratory system.
Anchovy allergies can be especially problematic because anchovies are "hidden" ingredients in other foods, such as Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing and Bloody Mary cocktails.
Children with a fish allergy can get eczema patches on their eyelids, palms of their hands and soles of their feet.
Skin testing can help confirm what food is triggering the allergy as can a food challenge, which involves feeding a food suspected of causing a reaction to see if it results in allergy symptoms.
Fish & Puffy Eyes
Urticaria, commonly known as hives, present as red, swollen, itchy welts on the skin. Hives are an allergic reaction of certain people's skin to a substance or food ingredient that is harmless to most individuals. Foods such as anchovies that are rich in histamines can cause a chemical reaction that results in hives in sensitive people. Hives may appear suddenly and usually last only a few hours, although occasionally they can remain for more than six weeks.
- Urticaria, commonly known as hives, present as red, swollen, itchy welts on the skin.
- Foods such as anchovies that are rich in histamines can cause a chemical reaction that results in hives in sensitive people.
Allergic asthma is an airway obstruction and inflammation that may be partially reversible with medication. Allergic and non-allergic asthma have similar symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.
Salmon & Skin Rash
The most dangerous fish allergy symptoms affect breathing and may cause a drop in blood pressure resulting in shock, known as anaphylaxis, which is the most severe type of allergic reaction. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America explains that food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylactic reactions treated in U.S. emergency rooms 4. Seafood allergies are the most common causes of food allergy and can be lifelong 4.
Allergic reactions to anchovies typically occur when the fish are eaten, with severe reactions generally starting minutes after ingesting the food. Some people experience digestive distress, including stomachache, cramping, diarrhea or vomiting. Other people’s symptoms are triggered when fish protein from the anchovy is inhaled during the cooking process or when the fish comes into direct contact with an allergic person’s skin.
Seafood allergies last throughout people's lives, unlike most food allergies that children grow out of. Women are more likely to be afflicted with fish allergies than men, and it is not uncommon for the onset of fish allergies to happen in adulthood, according to the The Online Allergist 1.
- Allergic reactions to anchovies typically occur when the fish are eaten, with severe reactions generally starting minutes after ingesting the food.
Reactions to Other Foods
People who have food allergies must be careful about everything they eat, especially if they are allergic to anchovies and other ingredients that may be a hidden in different foods. Reading labels can be life saving. The Federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection “requires that any packaged food product that contains fish as an ingredient must list the name of the specific fish on the label.”
Fish & Puffy Eyes
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- The Online Allergist: Classifications of Seafood
- Michigan Allergy, Sinus & Asthma Specialists: www.michiganallergy.com/food_and_histamine.shtml Michigan Allergy, Sinus & Asthma Specialists: Foods That Contain Histamine
- Food Allergy Initiative: Fish Allergy
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Seafood Allergy
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Common Questions fact sheet.
- Gupta RS, Warren CM, Smith BM, et al. Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among US Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(1):e185630. Published 2019 Jan 4. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5630
- Foong RX, du Toit G, Fox AT. Asthma, Food Allergy, and How They Relate to Each Other. Front Pediatr. 2017;5:89. doi:10.3389/fped.2017.00089
- Commins SP. Outpatient Emergencies: Anaphylaxis. Med Clin North Am. 2017;101(3):521–536. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2016.12.003
- Mazzucco W, Raia DD, Marotta C, et al. Anisakis sensitization in different population groups and public health impact: A systematic review. PLoS One. 2018;13(9):e0203671. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203671
- Kuehn A, Swoboda I, Arumugam K, Hilger C, Hentges F. Fish allergens at a glance: variable allergenicity of parvalbumins, the major fish allergens. Front Immunol. 2014;5:179. Published 2014 Apr 22. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2014.00179
- D'Auria E, Abrahams M, Zuccotti GV, Venter C. Personalized Nutrition Approach in Food Allergy: Is It Prime Time Yet?. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):359.doi:10.3390/nu11020359
- Goyal R, Deshmukh N. Food label reading: Read before you eat. J Educ Health Promot. 2018;7:56. Published 2018 Apr 3. doi:10.4103/jehp.jehp_35_17
- Hickman D, Sims TJ, Miles CA, Bailey AJ, De mari M, Koopmans M. Isinglass/collagen: denaturation and functionality. J Biotechnol. 2000;79(3):245-57. doi:10.1016/s0168-1656(00)00241-8
- Seafood Health Facts: Making Smart Choices. Seafood Safety Overview | Seafood Health Facts.
- Ring J, Beyer K, Biedermann T, et al. Guideline for acute therapy and management of anaphylaxis: S2 Guideline of the German Society for Allergology and Clinical Immunology (DGAKI), the Association of German Allergologists (AeDA), the Society of Pediatric Allergy and Environmental Medicine (GPA), the German Academy of Allergology and Environmental Medicine (DAAU), the German Professional Association of Pediatricians (BVKJ), the Austrian Society for Allergology and Immunology (ÖGAI), the Swiss Society for Allergy and Immunology (SGAI), the German Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine (DGAI), the German Society of Pharmacology (DGP), the German Society for Psychosomatic Medicine (DGPM), the German Working Group of Anaphylaxis Training and Education (AGATE) and the patient organization German Allergy and Asthma Association (DAAB). Allergo J Int. 2014;23(3):96–112. doi:10.1007/s40629-014-0009-1
- Moneo I, Caballero ML, Rodriguez-perez R, Rodriguez-mahillo AI, Gonzalez-muñoz M. Sensitization to the fish parasite Anisakis simplex: clinical and laboratory aspects. Parasitol Res. 2007;101(4):1051-5. doi:10.1007/s00436-007-0587-7
- Van do T, Elsayed S, Florvaag E, Hordvik I, Endresen C. Allergy to fish parvalbumins: studies on the cross-reactivity of allergens from 9 commonly consumed fish. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005;116(6):1314-20. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2005.07.033
Maura Wolf's published online articles focus on women, children, parenting, non-traditional families, companion animals and mental health. A licensed psychotherapist since 2000, Wolf counsels individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, body image, parenting, aging and LGBTQ issues. Wolf has two Master of Arts degrees: in English, from San Francisco State University and in clinical psychology, from New College.