What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Shrimp?

Shrimp canapés.
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An allergic reaction to seafood may require use of an EpiPen.
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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
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  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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Having an allergic reaction to shrimp is common because many people have shellfish allergies. Some people have mild reactions like hives, tingling in the mouth, and minor swelling of body parts. Other people have severe allergic reactions to even the tiniest bit of shrimp, which may include difficulty breathing; nausea and vomiting; and severe swelling of the face, throat, or lips. Sometimes an allergic reaction to shrimp is mistaken for food poisoning and vice versa. Part of recognizing an allergic reaction to shrimp is knowing if the person has reactions to other shellfish, like crab and squid.

Hives are a very common allergic reaction and appear as red welts that itch or sting. Tingling in the mouth is a harmless reaction to an allergen, but it might be followed by swelling. Minor swelling of the face, lips, and throat is sometimes hard to detect, though it is also harmless as long as breathing is untroubled. These allergic reactions to shrimp are all relatively minor and usually do not require medical attention.

Another sign of an allergic reaction to shrimp is troubled breathing, which is usually characterized by raspy noises made when inhaling and the inability to talk over a hoarse whisper. Difficulty breathing is caused by severe swelling of the throat or mouth, constricting the person’s airways. This is a severe reaction that needs medical attention right away. Until help arrives, the person should lie down without a pillow to open his or her airways as much as possible.


Nausea and vomiting are other signs of an allergic reaction to shrimp. These signs might be accompanied by pain in the abdomen or diarrhea. If these reactions are severe, medical attention might be necessary. A doctor may recommend over-the-counter anti-nausea medications to help relieve the discomfort until the problem works itself out.

Sometimes people confuse shellfish allergies for food poisoning because they never had a bad experience with shrimp or crab before. Most people develop food allergies as a young child, and they either fade away as they age or stick with them forever. It is possible to develop an allergy to shellfish as an older child or adult, however. In theory, a person could eat shrimp occasionally or on a regular basis and then one day be allergic to it.

Most people who are allergic to shrimp are also allergic to other shellfish, but it goes both ways. A person who is allergic to crab is probably going to have an allergic reaction to shrimp. Knowing about a person’s allergies can help in preventing and recognizing allergic reactions.


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