Shellfish Allergy Iodine: Clarifying the Misconceptions

When people say they are shellfish allergy iodine they may be saying so for a lot of reasons. One of the most common of these is that people are allergic to shellfish, which has been used synonymously to describe iodine allergy as well. There is a possibility that a shellfish and iodine allergy may occur in the same person, but the two are typically unrelated, with shellfish being a response to proteins in the fish. What this tends to mean is that unless a reaction has occurred specifically to iodine, most people can’t tell they’re allergic to selfish, by inferring a connection between iodine and shellfish.

What is Shellfish Allergy?

In the misconception and correlation of shellfish allergy iodine, let us differentiate what shellfish allergy really is. Shellfish allergy occurs more often in adults and older children. It can appear at any age and can be caused by foods that had been previously eaten without any problems. Most people who are allergic to one type of shellfish are often allergic to other types of shellfish. Many people with shellfish allergy will not lose the allergy.

The severity of symptoms can vary widely from one person to another. Mildly allergic persons may have itching and a few hives while severely allergic persons may experience severe, life-threatening symptoms such as breathing problems or swelling of the throat. Symptoms of shellfish allergy usually appear within minutes to two hours of eating shellfish.

Symptoms may include, skin reactions such as hives or eczema; allergic conjunctivitis or itchy, red, watery eyes; gastrointestinal reactions such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea; airways symptoms such as wheezing or coughing or runny nose; and, angioedema or swelling of lips, tongue, or face. Shellfish allergies may cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care.

What is Iodine Allergy?

As we have defined shellfish allergy above, let us define iodine allergy to further distinguish shellfish allergy iodine. The term ‘iodine allergy’ is used frequently and usually refers to a history of an allergic reaction to iodinated radiological contrast media or possibly a contact allergy to povidone-iodine. A misconception has arisen that allergy to seafood is caused by the iodine content of fish and shellfish. An iodine allergy would be an immediate response to iodine on the skin or iodine injected in a contrast dye to take better X-rays. In general such exposure would cause immediate anaphylactic shock in those who are allergic.

A patient might show very labored breathing and the tongue or throat might swell. Treatment is an injection with epinephrine to stop the histamine reaction. An actual iodine allergy is extraordinarily rare. Some show signs of sensitivity to iodine with nausea, flushing, fever, or some labored breathing. It would be greatly useful if people who were about to undergo testing with radio contrast media could simply have a trial run or skin scratch test to determine if they were allergic to iodine.

Relation of Iodine and Shellfish

Why do we keep relating these two into a single condition of shellfish allergy iodine? Iodine is not an allergen. Atopy is the one in general cases that confers an increased risk of reaction to contrast administration, but the risk of contrast administration is low, even in patients with a history of iodine allergy, seafood allergy, or prior contrast reaction. Allergies to shellfish, in particular, do not increase the risk of reaction to intravenous contrast any more that of other allergies.

One of the reasons people feel they may have an iodine allergy is if they are allergic to shellfish or simply fish. Both shellfish and other fishes are a rich source of iodine, but often those allergic are not responding to the iodine in the fish but on its particular protein. However, if one has a shellfish allergy, there is a slightly increased risk of iodine allergy as compared to those who doesn’t.

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