Hongkongers love seafood and long queues of diners outside seafood specialty restaurants can attest to that.
However, some older people would tell us to refrain from eating too much shellfish because they’re bad for our health and could give rise to food allergies.
To a certain extent, it is true as tropomyosin, a type of protein commonly found in some shellfish, is a major allergen that can induce allergic reactions in certain people.
Tropomyosin is heat-stable and cannot be destroyed by cooking. People who are allergic to tropomyosin might expect their body to react when eating shellfish raw or cooked.
Unlike allergens in milk or soya beans, to which tolerance can be built up over time, shellfish allergies do not work in this way.
The only remedy is to avoid them.
Symptoms of shellfish allergies can range from mild to severe.
Mild allergic reaction often occurs in individual organs or related tissues. Symptoms include runny nose or sneezing, red rashes, raised itchy rashes and swelling in the skin, as well as vomiting and diarrhea.
Severe allergic reaction could be lethal as the swelling in the mouth, throat or tongue comes suddenly, making one breathe and swallow with difficulty. It could also cause a sharp and sudden drop in blood pressure.
Shellfish allergic reactions vary from people to people. Some would have the symptoms develop only after consumption of the food containing those allergens, while some people are so sensitive that the smell of cooked seafood could trigger their immune system to respond.
Here are five tips to avoid shellfish allergies:
1) Read the food label. Identify and avoid food that contains allergens that could cause allergies.
2) Keep the cookware thoroughly clean and free of allergens.
3) Avoid fried dishes at restaurants. Unless it is new cooking oil, it is unlikely that it is free from seafood contamination.
4) Be careful with the seasonings. Many sauces and seasonings are made from shellfish.
5) Keep away from allergens, especially for those who are sensitive to the smell of shellfish.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 20
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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