Travelling With Seafood Allergies – All You Need To Know
To all my friends who haven’t tried seafood ever and you are most excited to taste those lobsters, prawns and other shellfishes on your next trip, you must read this post once for awareness. ‘Seafood Allergies’ – the term I wasn’t even aware of until I was severely affected by it and until it placed me in a life-threatening situation in a foreign land.
My Experience With Seafood Allergy
I never tried any seafood in my life except fish, until a few years back. While flying from Delhi to Goa, I was tempted to try a prawn sandwich that was one of the meal options in flight. As soon as I tasted the prawn in the sandwich, I felt a sudden tingling on my tongue. But I thought this was how it is supposed to taste. By the time we landed in Goa, I felt a severe stomach pain and nausea. As soon as we checked-in to our hotel room, I vomited. We thought it was just an air sickness as it was a 2.5-hours flight. I slept for some time and the uneasiness settled. Everything went fine on that trip and I could never relate anything to seafood allergy. In Goa, you get fresh and delicious fish everywhere. Since I love fish and I didn’t like the taste of prawn, we didn’t try any other seafood on that trip.
The worst happened on our next trip that was our first international trip to Mauritius. On our last day in the country, we thought of trying some seafood while relaxing on the Ile Aux Cerfs Island. We were offered Calamari and we immediately agreed to taste it. I felt a little tingling on my tongue when I had it, but again, I thought this is how seafood is supposed to taste. The Calamari was deep fried and tempered with aromatic spices. It was very delicious and I ate to my heart’s delight. Once we were back in hotel, we thought of relaxing for some time and then going for a couple-spa in the evening.
I started feeling an uneasiness in my stomach. I generally take green tea when I overeat and it helps in digesting the food. I did the same to digest Calamari and this was a huge mistake. With that growing uneasiness, I should have vomited that undigested seafood instead of trying to digest it. Once my stomach felt light, I started getting rashes and red spots on my skin accompanied by severe itching. I took an OTC medicine which I generally take for mild allergies. But nothing worked. I tried taking a cold shower, but the allergy kept growing to a point where I felt my body was boiling and the itching would kill me. We called up the hotel staff to arrange for a doctor. By the time the doctor reached, I got a high fever, my body including my face was full of allergic reactions, my pulse rate increased and I could not breathe properly. The doctor gave me a couple of injections and told us that the further treatment will be done in the hospital as this is a severe case of seafood allergy. He drove us to his clinic in Port Louis. I was treated with IV fluids, more injections, medicines and lotions to pacify the itchiness. I stayed in the hospital for 4 hours. We had a Sea Karting booked for the next day and then we had a flight to catch for Dubai. But this was us sitting in the hospital and wondering where things went wrong. Thankfully, I was able to breathe normally after 4 hours and we could go back to the hotel. The doctor told us that many people die of seafood allergies in such severe cases and this allergy is not to be taken lightly. I was strictly told to avoid all seafood. We were billed approximately $500 for the treatment. Thanks to the travel insurance, we claimed it back. We reached the hotel by 2 at night and we were damn hungry. Also, as recommended by the doctor, I must take my next meal before sleeping as this would reduce the effect of the allergy. Thanks to the cordial staff of Lux Grande Gaube (our hotel), they arranged food for us at that odd hour. I had my prescribed medicines and slept. The next morning, I was perfectly fine and all spots were also gone. Our plan for the rest of our trip went great. I was lucky to survive this severe allergy. This was my survival story after which I researched a lot about seafood allergies. Here is all that you need to know.
What Causes Seafood Allergy?
There is a protein called ‘Tropomyocin’ found in Shellfish and Molluscs. When your body rejects this particular protein, the immune system releases a chemical named ‘Histamine’ to attack it and this causes allergic reactions.
Symptoms of Seafood Allergy
Mild symptoms of the allergic reaction include tingling in the mouth, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, skin reactions like itching or/and hives, swelling of body parts, light headedness and fainting. Severe symptoms include congestion, breathing difficulty, swollen throat, rapid pulse, severely low blood pressure and loss of consciousness.
Treatment of Seafood Allergy
As of now, there is no treatment for seafood allergies. Prevention is the best cure. Most doctors agree that if you are allergic to one shellfish, it is most likely that you are allergic to others as well. So, the only way out is to avoid seafood if you are diagnosed with seafood allergy.
Are there any tests available for diagnosis?
Yes, there is a skin prick test that can identify if you are allergic to seafood. It involves puncturing of the forearm and injecting a small amount of allergen into it. People who are allergic will get a red spot on the affected area. There are also some blood tests available to detect if your are allergic to seafood.
Shellfish Allergies Vs Allergies Caused by Fish
The protein found in fish differs from that of shellfishes and molluscs. If you are allergic to one shellfish, you are likely to be allergic to another shellfish as well as molluscs. However, it is unlikely that you would be allergic to fish as well. There are people who are allergic to fish only but can have shellfish and molluscs and vice versa. Most studies have found out that many people who are allergic to shellfish are also allergic to tuna and salmon.
How Severe Can Be the Seafood Allergies
The type and severity of the allergy varies from individual to individual. Some people just develop mild symptoms while the reactions are severe in others. Some people develop allergic reactions only when they eat seafood, while others are even allergic to the smell and touch. In any case, Seafood allergies are not to be taken lightly. They can be fatal and life-threatening.
Some Helpful Tips
- If you are eating seafood for the very first time and you feel a tingling on your tongue, stop then and there. This is the very first symptom of seafood allergy.
- If you are diagnosed with seafood allergy, please make sure you take extra precautions especially while travelling. Attentively check for the ingredients used in various dishes and sauces. Read all labels carefully.
- Shellfish pastes are frequently used in many countries in most of their delicacies. It’s better to ask them before trying any new delicacy.
- When you pre-book any dinner/lunch, make sure you mention your seafood allergies so that your hosts can take care of this for you.
- If you get a feeling of nausea and severe stomach-ache, try to vomit the seafood out. This will avoid the extreme situations.
- In case of the allergic reactions such as itching, hives or any skin reactions, please contact the doctor immediately.
- Asthma and seafood allergies are a worst combination as respiratory system becomes an easy prey. In case an asthmatic person gets this reaction, call the doctor immediately. Your awareness can save a life.
- When recovering from the reaction, don’t skip your meal. When you take your next meal and it assimilates in the blood, this reduces the effect of the previous meal that caused allergies.
- Last, but not the least, always opt for a travel insurance. The little you spend on taking an insurance may save you bucks in case you are stuck in an unfavourable situation while travelling.
Now that I know I’m seafood allergic, we take extra precautions when we eat out while travelling. As a frequent traveller, we love to try new dishes, but we make sure to check for the ingredients. We inform our hosts about my seafood allergy so they would offer best food options that exclude seafood. All seafood tasting experiences are now taken care of by my hubby dear.