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Fish Allergy Basics

Fish Allergy:

A fish allergy is an immune reaction to proteins of a certain type of fish, such as bass, cod and flounder. It is not clear whether a person who reacts to a specific type of fish will react to all fish of that species or even to all fish. It is recommended that if you have a risk of anaphylactic reaction, avoid all fish.

Symptoms of fish allergy:

Symptoms of fish allergy can be divided into 3 categories:

  • Gastrointestinal – nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea
  • Respiratory – wheezing, asthma, rhinitis (stuffy or runny nose), itchy watery eyes, sneezing
  • Skin – hives, rash around the mouth, tingling of lips, swelling around the mouth, tightening of throat, eczema

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction to fish, involving every above organ system. It can lead to anaphylactic shock and death.

The fish-free diet:

Following a fish-free diet requires the elimination of the following types of foods:

  • Fish
  • Roe or caviar (fish eggs)
  • Fish oils
  • For a more detailed list, see the Fish-Free Guide

Fish oil may not contain any fish protein, and therefore may be tolerated by fish-allergic individuals. However, products can be contaminated with fish protein during processing, so a highly sensitive person should avoid all fish oils.

Nutritional needs:

Fish provide niacin, vitamin B6 and B12, phosphorus, selenium, and iron. These nutrients can easily be found in other foods such as legumes, meat, grains, and oils. Therefore, nutrient deficiency is not a concern when eliminating fish from the diet.