image001Shellfish allergies can be very serious so it is important to know when kids can eat shellfish. The main factor in deciding when to start is your family’s medical history, specifically with atopic diseases like asthma and allergies. When you know how to properly introduce shellfish to your kid’s diet and prevent allergies, then you can consider giving him a taste.

When Can Kids Eat Shellfish?

Most doctors recommend that you wait until your baby is 9 months old to give him fish (such as salmon) and 12 months for shellfish (such as shrimp or lobster). This is because by this point his immune system should be developed enough to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Many doctors, however, feel that in certain cases you should wait until your child is three years old. These cases include if there is a family history of severe allergies, the baby has food allergies, or has asthma, eczema or seasonal allergies. In all cases, you should wait to introduce shellfish to your child until after he is eating fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry.

How to Introduce Shellfish to Babies

After knowing when can kids eat shellfish, the next step is to know how to feed shellfish to babies.



Introduce only one type each time

The first shellfish your give your child should be something that can be easily pureed (like lobster or crab). Never offer fingertip sized pieces of other shellfish (such as shrimp) until he can chew finger foods without a problem. Always introduce one fish at a time.

Do not give raw or undercooked shellfish

Children should never have undercooked or raw fish such as in sushi or ceviche. This may have viruses and bacteria that healthy adults can handle but will make children very sick.

Wait for at least three days before moving on to another type

After you introduce your child to a shellfish, wait three days before you try another. This will give you time to see if there is a reaction.

Watch for signs of a food allergy

Anytime your child has a new food including shellfish, watch for symptoms of an allergy such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, wheezing, skin rash and swelling of his face, lips or tongue. Call the doctor immediately if the symptoms are mild or 911 if they are severe.

How to Deal With Shellfish Allergy

1. What Is Shellfish Allergy?

Although shellfish are considered seafood, a shellfish allergy is different from a fish allergy as they are biologically distinct. It is crucial to understand the difference as someone with a shellfish allergy can eat fish.

There are two types of shellfish allergies:

  • Crustaceans such as lobster, crab, or shrimp
  • Mollusks such as scallops, oysters, mussels, or clams

Important Note: Shellfish allergy can develop at any age.

Anyone can develop a shellfish allergy including those who have eaten shellfish without problems before. Although some people outgrow allergies over time, this is rare with shellfish allergies.

It is possible to have a severe reaction to a shellfish allergy even in cases where the previous one was mild, so always avoid it if you or your child has an allergy.

If your child has a shellfish allergy, always keep injectable epinephrine with you in case of severe reactions. You should also share plans with anyone who takes care of your kid such as school officials and relatives and consider a medical alert bracelet.

2. What Happens in a Shellfish Allergy?

In the case of an allergy to shellfish, a person’s immune system will overreact to the proteins found in the shellfish. That is because whenever they eat shellfish the body will think there is a harmful invader. The immune system works hard to fight off this invader and this leads to the allergic reactions. During this process the body releases histamine which can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Decreased blood pressure (which leads to loss of consciousness or lightheadedness)
  • Swelling
  • Red spots
  • Hives
  • Eyes that are itchy, swollen or watery
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomachache
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Wheezing

It is possible for your child to experience varying reactions depending on the type of shellfish he was exposed to and he may react differently after each consumption of the shellfish. Sometimes the reaction will only include one symptom and be mild while other times it can be more severe.

The following video about food allergies in children helps you know how to recognize the symptoms associated with a shellfish allergy:

3. How to Prevent Shellfish Allergy



Read food labels before eating

Always be sure to read the labels on food to make sure there are no shellfish. In the United States, manufacturers must state that a food contains crustacean shellfish as well as the other foods that make up the most common eight allergens. “Shellfish” will appear on the ingredient list or it may say “contains shellfish” afterwards.

Look for advisory statements

Manufacturers don’t need to list cross-contamination warnings but many do so; you should check for them. These include items such as “manufactured on equipment also used for shellfish”, “may contain shellfish”, and “processed in a facility that also processes shellfish”.

Contact the food company

Remember that it is possible that a cross-contaminated product does not have a precautionary statement so you should contact the manufacturing company to make sure a food product does contain shellfish. Sometimes you can find this information online and it is especially important in the case of severe allergies.

Talk to your doctor

Some non-food products also contain shellfish ingredients and these can include plant fertilizer, pet food, lip gloss and nutritional supplements. You should always ask your doctor if you have any safety concerns.