Dear Dr. Roach: I always thought that I had a cast iron stomach; however, after a bout of suspected food poisoning about six months ago, I’ve had two incidences of violent vomiting for about a half hour. Both of the preceding two meals included shrimp, which I have eaten often in the past without a problem. The episodes were just a month apart. In trying to find an answer, I was surprised to read that shellfish allergy can develop suddenly in adults. I’m afraid to eat it again, and I’ll follow up with my doctor for an allergy test. — M.C.W.
Answer: Allergies to fish and shellfish are common, seen in about 3% in U.S. adults. The symptoms vary among different people affected. Of all the shellfish, shrimp is likeliest to cause an allergy.
The usual allergic reaction to shrimp, called the IgE-mediated response, begins within minutes. The skin may show redness or warmth, itching or hives; people may notice tingling or swelling in the mouth or lips; and severe allergic reactions can cause dizziness, fainting, low blood pressure and confusion. It can sometimes lead to cardiac arrest. Severe allergic reactions can be extremely serious.
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