Fish Allergy Feature Image

Fish Allergy

A fish allergy is a physical reaction to finned fish. This allergy is more common in adults than children. About 40% of people diagnosed with a fish allergy had their first allergic reaction as adults. The major fish allergen is parvalbumin, which is a low-molecular-weight protein in fish muscle. Salmon, cod, and trout cause the most reactions in allergic individuals because of their high parvalbumin contents.

When dealing with a fish allergy, cross-reactivity is common – this means that someone who has had an allergic reaction to one species of fish is rather likely to be allergic to at least one other species.  However, recent research indicates that you may still be able to safely consume some fish species. You should discuss these exceptions with your NYC doctor at our asthma and allergy clinic.

For complete safety, it is recommended that fish-allergic individuals try to avoid all types of fish.

Different Types Of Fish

Anchovies Bass Carp Catfish
Cod or codfish Flounder Grouper Haddock
Halibut Herring Mackerel Mahi Mahi
Monkfish Orange Roughy Perch Pike
Salmon Snapper Sole Swordfish
Tilapia Trout Tuna Whitefish


Beware of foods that could contain fish such as Caesar salad dressing and Worcestershire sauce. Also, any food prepared at a seafood restaurant is likely to have cross-contact. Make sure to read the labels of packaged foods and ask your server about possible cross-contamination when dining out.

Fish Allergy Symptoms

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, or indigestion
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Swelling of the lips and/or face
  • Tightened throat
  • Anaphylaxis


Symptoms of a fish allergy can be brought on by eating, touching, or smelling fish. In severe cases, it can be airborne. When the allergy is airborne, an individual cannot even be near fish without having an allergic reaction. If you begin to show symptoms of an allergy after exposure to fish, seek treatment immediately.

Some conditions caused by toxins in fish can mimic symptoms of an allergy. If you get sick from eating fish, don’t assume that you are allergic. Contact a board-certified allergist for a diagnosis. At NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, we specialize in allergy testing and providing patients with a fast diagnosis.

Diagnosing A Fish Allergy

Since fish allergies are known to produce severe airborne allergic reactions, a blood test is most recommended to diagnose them. There aren’t any risks involved in this allergy test and results are usually delivered within a few days. You don’t have to stop taking any medications or make other preparations before taking an allergy blood test.

For less severe allergic reactions, an oral challenge may be safe for you. This should be done in a clinical setting with experienced medical personnel. This option is preferred for those who wish to test for multiple types of fish allergies without waiting days for the results.

Fish Allergy Treatment

If you have a fish allergy, try to avoid all types of fish. For those that are only allergic to one type of fish, ask your doctor if it’s safe to consume other species. Our NYC allergists will help you manage your fish allergy. We provide our patients with a personalized treatment plan to help treat your allergy symptoms.

Over-the-counter medications can treat minor symptoms such as headaches, skin rashes, or nausea. Use an inhaled corticosteroid prescribed by your doctor for asthma-related symptoms. It’s important to carry all of your medications in case of an emergency.

Another medication used to treat food allergy symptoms is epinephrine. Epinephrine is the only treatment available for anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. Your allergist will determine if you need an epinephrine auto-injector and train you to administer the drug.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is fish allergy the same as shellfish allergy?

No, fish allergy is not the same as shellfish allergy. A fish allergy refers to finned fish. Shellfish includes crustacea (shrimp, crab, and lobster) and mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters).

If I’m allergic to fish, will I be allergic to shellfish as well?

Having a fish allergy does not guarantee a shellfish allergy. There are cases in which patients have reported an allergy to both, but many individuals allergic to fish can safely consume shellfish. Visit your allergist for an allergy test to determine which fish is safe for you to eat.

Can you outgrow a fish allergy?

Research shows that only about 4 to 5 percent of people will outgrow a fish allergy. It is usually a long term condition.

Can patients allergic to fish take fish oil supplements?

Fish oil supplements are refined and purified, so they are safe for most individuals. However, you should always check with your doctor before taking any supplements.


If you need help with your fish allergy, call the allergists at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers. Our doctors can find relief for your respiratory allergies, nasal & sinus problems, and asthma. NYASC has access to the latest testing and treatment, and we offer convenient clinics throughout the NYC metropolitan area. For more info, call NY Allergy & Sinus Centers today at 212-686-4448.


  • NY Allergy & Sinus Centers

    Our premier team of allergists offer state-of-the-art methods for diagnosis and treatment of allergies and sinus conditions. Our NY Allergy & Sinus Centers perform Allergy Skin and Blood Testing, Food Allergy Testing, Patch Testing, and Immunotherapy, and often a same-day diagnosis is possible.

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