While many Americans look forward to eating out at a nice restaurant, if you’re one of the 7 million people who has a seafood allergy, such an occasion can actually be quite stressful. This is because eating at any dining establishment where seafood is served puts you at risk for being exposed to the proteins that can cause the allergic reaction, and the dangers involved in this scenario can be quite great or even potentially fatal in extreme cases.

Types of Seafood

Some of the most common types of seafood allergies include those to such items as lobster, clams, shrimp, prawns, catfish, cod and tuna, among other things. If you are allergic to any of these, even coming into contact with a utensil that has touched one of them can be enough to spark a reaction, the experts stress. Further, in some cases, the release of the seafood’s allergen into the air can be enough to put you in jeopardy.

Avoid All Risks

So you may wonder what you can do to play it safe yourself before you make your next dinner reservation. First, take the danger seriously. As many as 200 people die from food-induced anaphylaxis, and many thousands more become sick every year, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.

That’s why it is essential to take the time to educate yourself about the signs of a seafood allergy. These can include:

  • Hives
  • Coughing
  • Swelling of your lips, tongue or face
  • Cramps, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tight feeing in your throat and/or chest
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure and/or fainting

Further, even if you never had a seafood allergy as a child, know that it’s not too late to suddenly develop this condition as an adult, so if you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible, or in severe cases, to seek medical attention immediately.

Avoid all Risk

The best way to protect yourself is by avoiding all possible risk right from the start. Here are some things you can do to play it safe:

  • Frequent only restaurants that don’t serve seafood. This will always be your best bet. When it doubt, check the menu before you go.
  • If you must eat somewhere that does serve seafood, call ahead and talk to the manager and find out what steps they can take to help keep you safe.
  • Always explain the serious of your allergy to your waiter, waitress or host.
  • Avoid all types of fish and shellfish.
  • Be on the lookout for anchovies, which are often used in sauces, marinades and salad dressings and can put you at risk.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet.

Be Prepared

While all of these steps are important, you should also be prepared in case you do inadvertently become exposed to any seafood. That’s why you should carry an epinephrine pen, and if you do experience any symptoms, seek medical help right away.

In addition, if you want to confirm a seafood allergy, your doctor can perform skin or blood tests to identify exactly what it is that is triggering your symptoms.