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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Shrimp?

Alex Tree
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Having an allergic reaction to shrimp is common because many people have shellfish allergies. Some people have mild reactions like hives, tingling in the mouth, and minor swelling of body parts. Other people have severe allergic reactions to even the tiniest bit of shrimp, which may include difficulty breathing; nausea and vomiting; and severe swelling of the face, throat, or lips. Sometimes an allergic reaction to shrimp is mistaken for food poisoning and vice versa. Part of recognizing an allergic reaction to shrimp is knowing if the person has reactions to other shellfish, like crab and squid.

Hives are a very common allergic reaction and appear as red welts that itch or sting. Tingling in the mouth is a harmless reaction to an allergen, but it might be followed by swelling. Minor swelling of the face, lips, and throat is sometimes hard to detect, though it is also harmless as long as breathing is untroubled. These allergic reactions to shrimp are all relatively minor and usually do not require medical attention.

Another sign of an allergic reaction to shrimp is troubled breathing, which is usually characterized by raspy noises made when inhaling and the inability to talk over a hoarse whisper. Difficulty breathing is caused by severe swelling of the throat or mouth, constricting the person’s airways. This is a severe reaction that needs medical attention right away. Until help arrives, the person should lie down without a pillow to open his or her airways as much as possible.

Nausea and vomiting are other signs of an allergic reaction to shrimp. These signs might be accompanied by pain in the abdomen or diarrhea. If these reactions are severe, medical attention might be necessary. A doctor may recommend over-the-counter anti-nausea medications to help relieve the discomfort until the problem works itself out.

Sometimes people confuse shellfish allergies for food poisoning because they never had a bad experience with shrimp or crab before. Most people develop food allergies as a young child, and they either fade away as they age or stick with them forever. It is possible to develop an allergy to shellfish as an older child or adult, however. In theory, a person could eat shrimp occasionally or on a regular basis and then one day be allergic to it.

Most people who are allergic to shrimp are also allergic to other shellfish, but it goes both ways. A person who is allergic to crab is probably going to have an allergic reaction to shrimp. Knowing about a person’s allergies can help in preventing and recognizing allergic reactions.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
Discussion Comments
By Ocelot60 — On Jun 25, 2014

@raynbow- It definitely sounds like your friend had an allergic reaction to eating shrimp. Though it can take several hours to occur, an allergic reaction to foods like shrimp typically take place fairly quickly after eating it. On the other hand, the symptoms of food poisoning may take hours or even days to emerge.

To be sure, your friend should talk to her doctor before eating shrimp or other types of shellfish again. Though it sounds like her reaction was somewhat mild, if she truly is allergic to shrimp and shellfish, she could have a more severe reaction the next time she eats it.

There are certain types of allergy testing that a medical professional can do to see if someone is allergic to specific types of food. These tests would save your friend another uncomfortable allergic reaction in the future once she finds out what foods she truly is allergic to.

By Raynbow — On Jun 24, 2014

Does anyone know how long it takes before symptoms of an allergic reaction to shrimp sets in? I have a friend who got very sick as soon as she ate shrimp, but she assumed it was food poisoning. She was dizzy, nauseous, and has swelling in her mouth.

Alex Tree
Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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