Shellfish and fish are two of the most common allergies in adults and children. Though they tend to affect more adults than children, for those who develop it in childhood, it is considered a lifelong allergy and most will not outgrow it.
As with other allergies, a shellfish or fish allergy can be severe, but thanks to landmark clinical studies, we now know that introducing babies to these allergens early and consistently, before they turn one, is essential.
Shellfish and fish in a safely prepared format may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, along with most other allergenic foods, around 4-6 months of age according to the 2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that "within a few months of starting solid foods, your baby’s daily diet should include a variety of foods each day that may include...fish."
Introducing shellfish and fish early and often is essential in helping to prevent this allergy and reduce stress later in life.
When introducing any fish or shellfish meal to your little ones, it is essential to make sure it is fully cooked and always checked for bones or bits of shells. Toddlers should never eat raw or undercooked fish or shellfish. Furthermore, the rubbery texture of shellfish can be difficult for children to break down, and should be fed in a safe format.
Not only are fish and shellfish a common allergen, but they also have a unique flavor and chewy, slippery texture that your child will have to become adjusted to.
Is your baby ready for their first taste? Here are our favorite ways to introduce shellfish and fish to your baby for the first time:
You can offer thinly sliced or minced cooked shrimp or fish to children alone or alongside other foods. For shellfish, remove the tail and shell first. As they age and become comfortable with chewing and eating other finger foods, you can serve whole shrimp or prawns to eat as finger food or on a fork.
There are two types of shellfish:
Though crustacean allergies are more common, babies with any shellfish allergy are more likely to experience reactions to other shellfish.
Fish families include types such as salmon, tuna, catfish and cod. Due to high mercury levels, the FDA recommends avoiding introducing shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish to your little ones. Instead, fish types including salmon, cod, shrimp or canned light tuna are best.
Shellfish allergies have a higher prevalence in children, affecting up to 1.3% of children, while fish allergies affect .6% of the population. An allergy to shellfish does not necessarily mean your child will also develop an allergy to finned fish, as they are not closely related.