Fish Allergy

Table of Contents


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 fish allergy 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.

Fish Allergy Food List

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

There are other fish allergy foods to avoid 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 fish allergy 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.

Fish Allergy Diagnosis

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 type of fish allergy testing 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 your fish allergy sensitivity 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. 

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 212-686-6321

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).

Is Fish Allergy Curable?

No, fish allergy is not curable. However, an allergist can help you manage your fish intolerance.

Why Are People Allergic to Fish?

Fish with high parvalbumin contents cause allergic reactions.

Can I Be Allergic to Fish?

If you experience the above symptoms, you can be allergic to fish. Contact a food allergy doctor for an allergy test.

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 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.

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.

How is Fish Allergy Treated?

Antihistamines can treat some fish allergy symptoms. Epinephrine is required to treat anaphylaxis.

How is Fish Allergy Diagnosed?

Fish allergy is diagnosed with a variety of testing methods, including blood tests, oral challenges, and fish allergy patch tests.