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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.
Most children should avoid all shellfish. But some children are allergic to some types of shellfish and not others. Ask your child’s health care provider whether your child should avoid all shellfish, or just certain types. Types of shellfish include:
Anchovies (although not a shellfish, anchovies contain a protein similar to the protein in shellfish)
Calcium supplements derived from coral
Crawfish, also called crayfish
Lobster and langoustines (a type of lobster)
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 health care provider whether other types of fish are safe.
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, quahog (types of clams)
Coral, 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)
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 one has been prescribed, use an injectable epinephrine (such as EpiPen, Adrenaclick, Twinject) 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