Shellfish Allergy/Poisoning?

I forgot to tell you about my experience with Shellfish!  Anyone who knows me very well, knows I love shrimp–whenever Red Lobster has their Shrimp Fest each year (all you can eat shrimp)–I’m there!

Well,  on Thurs. July 17 Tabitha & the kids & I went to Red Lobster & I ordered the Shrimp Trio–Shrimp Scampi, Fired Shrimp & Shrimp Pasta.  this was after I had worked the closing shift, so it was about 9 pm when we ate.  I stayed up late chatting with Jon on the Internet (he was in England where there is an 8 hr. time zone difference) and finally went to bed at about 2 AM.  Right after laying down, I realized that my tummy was not happy.  I went to the bathroom and without going into details–I spent about an hour or so in there with very intense cramping, hot flashes and chills.  I was guessing maybe my irritable bowel was irritated with me, but then I realized that my lips were feeling ‘funny’.  They felt thick, tingly and numb!  I sat there contemplating whether I should go to the ER, thinking, ‘I probably shouldn’t drive myself alone, but if I woke Tabi, we would also have to bring the three kids (Gordan wasn’t home either).  Maybe I should call my friend Maryann who lives a few blocks away…’  In the meantime. the cramping had subsided a little and I went and laid down on my bed snuggling in the covers because I was also chilled, and I fell asleep.  The next morning, I realized it could have been serious, so I called my doctor’s office.   My doctor called back and after describing what had occurred he said, ‘You know what happened don’t you…?’  I said, ‘What?  Food poisoning?  He said, ‘well, that too, but did you eat shellfish?’  I said, ‘Yeah, three types of shrimp dishes!’  He said, ‘I think you may have had a shellfish allergy reaction!  Stay away from all shellfish for awhile and when you try it again, if you experience the same reactions–especially the weirdness in the lips–go immediately to the ER, because you may not have much time to get there!’

After spending a good part of the day Googling Shellfish allergy, I discovered shellfish poisoning–that is when the shellfish (in this case the shrimp) eat algae contaminated with a toxin that develops during ‘Red Tide’.  there is nothing that can be done to remove the toxin and the symptoms were the same as I  had experienced and it said it was often confused with shellfish allergy.  After talking with my friend Christi, who is a nurse (thanks Christi), I decided to follow her suggestion and ask to be tested by an allergist.  I decided that finding out I was allergic by ‘trying it again’ (especially considering I was looking at going to foreign countries that may or may not speak the same language I do),  probably wasn’t a very safe idea!

So, I went to an allergist where she first tested my lung function (I have mild asthma) and then told me it was only 74% and that she wanted it to be at least 80% before putting me in a possible risk of breathing problems if I was indeed allergic.  So, she chose to do a blood test  first. checking for the allergy,  & sent me home with a prescription for Singulair and a Xopenex inhaler and an epi-pen, saying, ‘it was a good thing to have on hand for an emergency anyway’.  She said if the blood test came back positive they wouldn’t need to do any further tests, but if it was negative they would need to do the skin tests.  Remember, I’m hoping it was shellfish poisoning, because I LOVE shrimp & other shellfish–in fact I had 3 mysteryshops at seafood restaurants that week and had to request my food be cooked with NO shellfish contact!

A week later, I was told the blood test was negative and she was impressed that my lung function had improved to 88% so she would do the skin tests.  She did a ‘control test’ with a histamine, as well as testing for shrimp and sulfides (she said it was possible it was caused by the shrimp being soaked in sulfides).  The only thing I reacted to was the histamine, and you are suppose to react to that one.  So, she said there were other tests that could be done to rule out sulfides, but if I wanted to, I could go ahead and try eating shrimp again, when I knew she and/or my own doctor would be available if there was a problem, so I could avoid a hospital trip.  As you can imagine it didn’t take me long to decide what I wanted to do–we had shrimp for lunch!  And then some more shrimp at dinner time!  With no reaction!  Yay!  I can eat shellfish now!

So, that means it was most likely shellfish poisoning.  If you want to avoid the possibility of shellfish poisoning–the rule is–Don’t eat shellfish during any month that doesn’t have an r in it–another wards, May, June, July and August.  The toxins in the algae are caused by ‘Red Tides’ which are warmer than the normal tides. so the chance of problems are increased during the warmer months, although since the Pacific Ocean is cooler, they have less problems than other areas.  Oh, and BTW–I did contact Red Lobster & the health department to report my reaction and was told nobody else had reported illness, so I guess I just got that one little naughty shrimp!  Tabi had Fried Shrimp and Jadon had Shrimp Scampi, and I was the only one who got sick.  Red Lobster was very apologetic and sent me $25 in gift certificates, saying, ‘We DO have other things on the menu besides shellfish, if it turns out you are allergic!’  So, guess where I will be when they have the shrimp fest again?  That is if I’m not in France or someplace…

And the good thing that came out of this–I found out that my asthma bothers me more than I realized and I now have medications to help…

Vicki

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