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No More Walks Along The Wharf: I'm Allergic To Fish

Updated on March 2, 2013
GarnetBird profile image

Gloria taught for many years, and also worked as a mental health group facilitator.

Even the strong smell of fish can trigger symptoms..
Even the strong smell of fish can trigger symptoms..
Are fish allergies caused by mercury contamination--or something else?
Are fish allergies caused by mercury contamination--or something else?
Grilled salmon is a delight I learned to forego.
Grilled salmon is a delight I learned to forego.
Allergy sufferers can obtain their Omega intake from Flaxseed Oil or other vegan sources.
Allergy sufferers can obtain their Omega intake from Flaxseed Oil or other vegan sources.

By Gloria Siess, {"Garnetbird"}

I adore salmon. In my thirties I developed a host of annoying symptoms after eating it: my face would burn and flush--my throat would swell. Due to my Adrenal Gland problems and general allergy-overload, fish, too, became something I was overly sensitive to. My sister (who shared the same allergy) blamed the mercury in the oceans. But was Mercury the real culprit? Or something else?

We all know that today's fish, swimming in contaminated waters, contain more mercury than the seafood our Grandparents enjoyed. But alas, when I bought "farm-raised" salmon, spawned in "pure ponds with no chemicals," my symptoms persisted, accompanied by a migraine headache to boot. What exactly was I allergic to?

There is a protein found in fish known as parvalbumin. The body reacts to this protein in suspectible persons, causing the system to flood with histamine. Avoiding salmon will simply not fix the problem: to the dismay of the allergy-sufferer, all fish and shellfish must be considered taboo. This includes shark and eel. Even the odor of fish can cause a reaction. Doctors recommend all contact with fish be stopped. (Unless they are inside an aquarium, of course!) Children can develop this food allergy at an early age, in which case the popular notion of cod liver oil as a cure-all could prove disastrous.

Oil which has been used to fry fish, if reused in a cafe kitchen, can contaminate your Chicken Fingers as well. The steam from poached fish, if inhaled, can cause certain people to break out with hives. Some experts advise eating canned tuna or mackerel. I followed this suggestion and ended up sick again. To play it safe, as they say, I avoid all places where fish is being exclusively served.

Another kind of fish allergy can be traced to the parasite anisakis simplex. Some people are not sensitive to the protein in the fish, but to the critters living in it. One can be tested for this specific allergy, as well as all others. The symptoms of this kind of sensitivity is the same as fish protein allergy. Both can cause oral and respiratory symptoms, some very serious.

Oral symptoms include tingling lips, burning mouth and itching. The respiratory problems can be grave indeed: plunging blood pressure, hives, lung inflamation leading to anaphylactic shock. This is a medical emergency of the highest order and can result in respiratory failure and death if not treated. Along with this litany of complaints, your gut can be affected also: if you have this food allergy and eat fish, you can experience severe gastric problems. Well, I decided..I'll just quit visiting wharves and eating fish, and I'll be fine...right? As it turns out, I was wrong.

There are products in your pantry that contain fish, and ingesting them can bring on symptoms. To name a few: Caesar Salad Dressing, Worchestshire Sauce, gelatin, fumet, and even Glucosamine Chondrotin, a common health supplement for joints. If you have children with a fish allergy, you must keep these items safely out of reach. If you are unsure as how to avoid cross-contamination with fish in your kitchen, follow this link to a site that gives good guidelines:

Giving up salmon and walks on the wharf wasn't so bad, after all. Finding out about my allergy just possibly saved my life.


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    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      6 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      I just suffered an allergy attack that left me with a horrific morning migraine today--some cleaning fluid triggered it in the home..allergies are serious business aren't they? Thanks for reading!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the all the detail in this article. I visited family in West Africa and had a hard time explaining to them that I couldn't eat anything that even contained fish stock or base! Just like many East Asia countries, nearly all soups are based and flavored with fish. I can tell by the first bite if something contains fish and Benadryl and lots of water literally saved my life in my four months there.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      THANK you for your comments! Fascinating. I crave's rather frustrating at times.

    • sgphilgoh profile image


      8 years ago from Singapore

      Just to add to your list of seafood which can cause allergic reaction. These are commonly found in East Asia, such as salted fish and dried shrimp.Seafood based products such as fermented fish sauce,fermented shrimp paste. The shrimp paste are often mixed with chilly paste and offered as a condiment. Thank you for a very informative hub.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      I thought that too, I took benadryl and even predinose, but fish kept triggering really sick flu-like symptoms. Thank you for reading this!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      My sister has seafood allergies, but we believe it is the mercury in the fish. Without getting into all the detail of how we made that determination. She just knows to keep Benadryl with her if she plans to eat anything that might have hidden seafood in it.

      Good hub with valuable info and Congrats on being nominated to the HubNuggets Wannabe Contest for this week. :)

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      I enjoyed the conversation--my first attack made my eyes and face swell up like a melon. My half-sister developed the same allergy in her thirties.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      8 years ago from Sydney

      Faybe, no one knows how allergies are triggered - it's unlikely to be food poisoning, because it's a malfunction in the immune system. Maybe one day scientists will work it out!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Wow, what great information. I have a severe allergy to clams, and cannot eat anything fried in the same oil, the allergy is like food poisoning, and I think that may have been how it started, but don't know for sure. I have to ask, if a place has fried clams, if they use a separate fryer for seafood, and other fried foods. Surprisingly some do, others have lied to me about it and I got sick again.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      This is a very interesting and helpful read. Thanks so much. Congratulations to your Hubnugget nomination! Check it out:

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      8 years ago from Delaware

      Congrats on the nomination, hope you win! ;-)

    • susanlang profile image


      8 years ago

      Good information. I'm reactive whenever I'm around shrimp.

    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      O, thank you--I appreciate your comments!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hugs for the HUb and all the information...I prefer to catch and release the fish...smiles...purest I suppose but to eat something which comes off the shelf and no idea the way it was handled.


    • GarnetBird profile imageAUTHOR

      Gloria Siess 

      8 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Your comments brightened my morning! Yes, Fish allergies can be tricky. I still love salmon and rice pilaf--from a safe distance!

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 

      8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Great topic & article....Thanks for following me...

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      8 years ago from Delaware

      Well this is the first time I have found out in detail what fish allergies are all about. I had no idea it could be so dangerous and am glad you realized you needed to stay away from all things fishy even nutritional supplements, which was a big surprise to read about as well. Good Hub!


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