Shrimp Allergy: Symptoms, Testing, and Treatment

Shrimp are a common crustaceans that can trigger an allergic reaction. Shrimp allergies, like other shellfish allergies, can develop in adults, and the majority of people with shrimp allergies will not outgrow them.

What is a Shrimp Allergy?

A shrimp allergy is an  immune system reaction triggered by proteins found in shrimp, leading to a range of symptoms from mild itching to severe anaphylaxis. Tropomyosin is one common protein that can cause the reaction, but be aware that tropomyosin is also common in arthropods, like house dust mites and cockroaches, so someone who has a shrimp allergy could feasibly be exposed without being near shrimp.

When exposed to the protein, your body creates Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to try to fight off what it perceives as a risk, and this results in the allergic reaction.

Can You Develop a Shellfish Allergy?

Yes and even people who have never had an issue with shrimp or other shellfish can develop a shrimp allergy as they age. Roughly 60% of people who have shellfish allergies have their first allergic experience as an adult, although there is some thinking that this high statistic may be inflated simply due to the fact that children typically eat less seafood than adults. 

Does a Shrimp Allergy Go Away?

Most people who develop a shrimp allergy will have it for life. While some people will indeed see their symptoms decline, the majority will have to deal with it. There are some effective food allergy treatments including oral immunotherapy, however, that can reduce exposure risk while building up a level of protection.

What are Shrimp Allergy Symptoms?

Shrimp allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the most common symptoms of a shrimp allergy include: 

    • Wheezing or shortness of breath
    • Hives or rash
    • Itching
    • Swelling in the lips, tongue, mouth, throat, or around the eyes
    • Abdominal pain or discomfort
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Nasal congestion
    • Diarrhea 

Severe shrimp allergic symptoms can include anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. The body’s immune system overreacts to proteins in shrimp, and it sends a rush of chemicals to fight off the invading proteins. Signs of anaphylaxis include:   

    • Pale or bluish tint on the skin 
    • Throat constriction
    • Shortness of breath
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Confusion and/or dizziness
    • Fainting or loss of consciousness
    • Weak, rapid pulse

In the event of anaphylaxis, immediate treatment with epinephrine is required. Individuals with severe shrimp allergies may experience anaphylaxis within minutes after being exposed, underscoring the importance of swift intervention. Individuals who are diagnosed with a shrimp allergy should always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times.

Shrimp Allergy Test

Shrimp allergy reactions are similar to those of other shellfish, and people may be allergic to multiple types of crustaceans and mollusks in addition to shrimp. That said, the symptoms may vary, even with similar foods. Shrimp allergy is often hard to diagnose because of similarities to other conditions. 

In order to confidently diagnose a shrimp or other allergy, it’s important to talk with a trained allergist. The gold standard of food allergy testing involves three distinct tests which can help clinically determine the allergy.


Skin Prick Test

An easy and safe test where the patient’s skin is gently pricked with the suspected allergen, and the allergist monitors for a mild reaction.

Blood Test

By measuring the amount of IgE antibodies in a small blood sample, the allergist can see whether the immune system deployed an allergic reaction to fight off the shrimp proteins.

Oral Food Challenge

The patient consumes small amounts of the allergen in a controlled, clinical environment. The patient is monitored closely for signs of an allergic reaction and appropriate precautions are taken to ensure safety. At Latitude, we only proceed with OFCs if we expect the patient to safely pass, thereby validating the lack of allergy.

How is Shrimp Allergy Treated at Latitude Food Allergy Care?

Shrimp Allergy Treatment with Oral Immunotherapy

At Latitude, we offer oral immunotherapy (OIT) as an effective treatment option for shrimp allergies, while also improving the quality of life for our patients. The goal of oral immunotherapy is to expose the patient to increasing amounts of an allergen. Through the process, the body is gradually desensitized over time and adapts to the presence of the allergen. Because the body can handle some level of the allergen, the patient has fewer dietary restrictions, and is protected against severe or life-threatening reactions due to accidental exposure. 

If clinically relevant, patients can choose to combine their oral immunotherapy with Xolair, an anti-IgE monoclonal antibody that helps inhibit allergic reactions.

How to Cure a Shrimp Allergy

While there are no guaranteed cures, OIT can be an effective treatment option for single or multiple food allergies and is safe for all ages. By reducing the risk of exposure, you can develop a level of protection against shrimp allergies. In fact, 92% of Latitude OIT patients reach maintenance and are successfully desensitized to their allergens.

To be a successful candidate for oral immunotherapy treatment, patients must consume small amounts of shrimp on a daily basis. To determine whether a patient may be a candidate for OIT, our expert clinical team will evaluate existing health conditions, collect a full medical history, and discuss lifestyle.

Are you or a loved one suffering from a suspected shrimp allergy? Take the next step toward better health, safety, and quality of life with Latitude Food Allergy Care. Our expert clinicians are available to discuss your testing and treatment options. Contact us today to schedule a no-obligation conversation with one of our Patient Care Coordinators.

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