The Facts About Fish Allergies

Fish on a plate

Fish Allergy Facts

Fish is considered one of the top 8 most common allergens.  Currently about 40 percent of those with a fish allergy are adults. For those with a fish allergy, it is most often tuna, salmon and/or halibut that cause an allergic reaction. However, it is recommended that anyone with a fish allergy avoid all types of fish.  Fish with fins are not from the same family as shellfish, so it is possible someone with a fish allergy can eat shellfish safely.

Fish Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms may include: hives, swelling (especially of the face), wheezing, asthma, nausea, vomiting, nasal congestion, itching, allergic conjunctivitis (itchy, watery eyes), and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may include all of the symptoms mentioned, as well as difficulty breathing and reduced blood pressure. This needs to be addressed as a medical emergency and 9-1-1 should be called immediately.

How to Manage Fish Allergies

There is no cure, so strict avoidance and reading food labels are the only forms of managing fish allergies. Fortunately the federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires fish to be listed on the food label if the product contains fish as an ingredient. Educating yourself on unexpected sources of fish allergens is another way to prevent exposure and/or a reaction. Remember even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.  Eating at seafood or ethnic restaurants is high-risk for those with a fish allergy (even in dishes that do not contain fish), because of the possibility of cross-contact.

Potential Unexpected Sources of Fish:

  • Caesar salad and Caesar dressing
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Bouillabaisse
  • Imitation or artificial fish or shellfish
  • Meatloaf
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Caponata (Sicilian eggplant relish)
  • Fish oil

Additional allergen information about fish can be found in the following areas: