When Your Child Has a Food Allergy: Shellfish

When Your Child Has a Food Allergy: Shellfish

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When Your Child Has a Food Allergy: Shellfish

When a child has a shellfish allergy, exposure to even a small amount of shellfish can cause a life-threatening reaction. This sheet tells you more about your child’s shellfish allergy. You’ll learn what foods to avoid, what to look for on food labels, and how to eat safely in restaurants.

Shellfish allergy: what to avoid

Most children should avoid all shellfish. But some children are allergic to some types of shellfish and not others. Ask your child’s healthcare provider whether your child should avoid all shellfish, or just certain types. Types of shellfish include:

  • Abalone

  • Anchovies (although not a shellfish, anchovies contain a protein similar to the protein in shellfish)

  • Calcium supplements derived from coral

  • Clams (cherrystone, little neck, geoduck, pismo, and quahog)

  • Cockle, periwinkle, and sea urchin

  • Crab

  • Crawfish, also called crayfish, and ecrevisse

  • Cuttlefish

  • Limpet (lapas and opihi)

  • Lobster and langoustines (a type of lobster)

  • Mollusks

  • Mussels

  • Oysters and squid (calamari)

  • Scallops

  • Sea urchin and sea cucumber (beche-de-mer)

  • Shrimp and prawns

  • Snails, whelks, and periwinkles

Some children with shellfish allergies are also allergic to other fish, such as salmon, trout, and tuna. Ask your child’s healthcare provider whether other types of fish are safe.

What to look for on food labels and menus

Shellfish go by many different names. Watch for these terms on labels and menus:

  • Bouillabaisse, a seafood soup that usually contains shellfish

  • Caesar salad and caesar dressing (often contain anchovies)

  • Cherrystone, littleneck, pismo, and quahog (types of clams)

  • Coral and tomalley (parts of lobster)

  • Paella, a rice dish that often contains clams or mussels

  • Scampi, a shrimp dish

  • Surimi, a name for imitation crab and shrimp that sometimes contains shellfish

  • Some types of sushi (read labels carefully on prepared sushi; when eating out, ask your server about ingredients)

  • Tapenade (an olive paste that may contain anchovies)

  • Worcestershire sauce (many brands contain anchovies)

Eating out safely

Some children are more sensitive to shellfish than others. Just breathing the fumes of cooking shellfish may trigger an allergic reaction in certain children. For your child’s safety, follow these precautions when eating away from home:

  • Avoid seafood restaurants. It’s likely that shellfish may come in contact with foods your child can safely eat.

  • Avoid fried foods. Many restaurants cook chicken, french fries, and shrimp in the same oil.

  • Ask about grilled foods. Chicken, beef, and shrimp may be cooked on the same grill.

  • Avoid hot dogs and deli meats, which may contain traces of shellfish.

  • Ask your server about ingredients and how food is prepared instead of relying on menu descriptions.

  • Carry a “chef card.” This personalized card explains your child’s food allergy to restaurant workers. You can make your own card or print one from a website on the Internet.

If your child has ANY of the symptoms listed below, act quickly!

If one has been prescribed, use an injectable epinephrine (such as EpiPen or Adrenaclick) right away. Then call 911 or emergency services.

  • Trouble breathing or cough that won’t stop

  • Swelling of the mouth or face

  • Dizziness or fainting

  • Vomiting or severe diarrhea