Allergic reactions to lobster and other shellfish are common in adults. Shellfish allergies are an important cause of severe allergic reactions including anaphylaxis. The allergic reaction usually begins as an adult and can happen in adults who have never had food allergies in the past. People who are allergic to lobster are usually allergic to other shellfish and may need to avoid all shellfish.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction immediately after exposure to lobster or other shellfish can indicate an allergy. Sometimes food poisoning or infections can be mistaken for allergic reactions. It is possible to perform a test for allergies to be sure what is causing the problem.
Skin tests are available to test for a lobster allergy. The doctor pricks the skin with a tiny needle containing a small amount of the protein that causes the allergy. A positive reaction causes a red bump or hive to break out at the site of the test.
Allergen-specific blood tests measure the body’s response to lobster proteins. A blood sample sent to a laboratory for a RAST test or allergy screen can determine whether a person is allergic to lobster.
Lobster allergies can be mild or severe. Often the severity of symptoms will progress with each exposure to lobster, so allergic individuals should avoid all contact with lobster. Symptoms often start with a tingling in the mouth or throat and progress to include hives or a rash; swelling of the face, tongue, throat, or other parts of the body; wheezing; congestion; or trouble breathing. Dizziness and fainting can occur.
Severe life-threatening reactions to lobster called anaphylaxis can occur. Signs of anaphylaxis include a swollen throat that obstructs the airway and makes breathing difficult, a severe drop in blood pressure resulting in shock, a rapid pulse, dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness. Symptoms occur rapidly after eating the food.
If you have any of the symptoms of anaphylaxis, you should seek emergency medical care immediately.
The only way to prevent an allergic reaction to lobster is to avoid lobster completely. Eating lobster, handling lobster or breathing the steam from cooking lobster can cause a reaction in an allergic person.
Because it is not always possible to avoid exposure, persons who suffer anaphylaxis from exposure to lobster or other shellfish should carry an EpiPen at all times. The EpiPen delivers an emergency injection of epinephrine to slow the reaction and allow time for medical intervention. After using the EpiPen, emergency medical assistance should be sought.
For less severe reactions, antihistamines can be taken after exposure to help relieve the symptoms of lobster allergy.
Iodine allergies are not the same as allergies to lobster and other shellfish, but often occur in the same people. For this reason, persons with lobster allergies should always inform health-care professionals of the allergy. Most people with a lobster allergy will have no problem with iodine, but it is important that health-care professionals are aware of the possibility when medical tests involving iodine are being performed.