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Signs and Symptoms of Shellfish Food Poisoning

Updated July 19, 2017

Lobster, crab, scallops and other types of shellfish make for tasty meals and appetizers, but an enjoyable dining experience can go awry quickly if it turns out the food has been contaminated. Accidentally eating tainted shellfish will result in the uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms of food poisoning. Look for these signs to help you determine if you have a case of shellfish food poisoning.

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Physical Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of shellfish food poisoning may differ from one individual to another, but they include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and headache. You may also feel muscle weakness or have a sensation that you are floating. Sometimes, the lips, tongue and gums will tingle or begin to go numb, and there may be difficulty in talking or swallowing. Some types of shellfish food poisoning lead to rectal burning or slow reflexes.


As with any type of food poisoning, it is important to replace lost fluids and electrolytes, so keep yourself hydrated, especially by consuming clear liquids. If the symptoms are severe, see a health care provider, who may decide to clear the toxins from your body. This could involve pumping your stomach. The health care provider may also treat the food poisoning with antibiotics or other prescription drugs.


There are certain steps you can take to avoid a case of shellfish food poisoning. For example, do not eat shellfish that has been exposed to red tides. Red tides are a phenomenon triggered by toxic plankton that reproduce in large numbers, causing water to turn red or reddish-brown. In addition, you should make sure that cooked shellfish has been prepared at the proper temperature. When preparing or serving shellfish (or any other food), wash your hands frequently and use only unsoiled dishes and utensils.

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About the Author

Adriana Colindres

Adriana Colindres has been a professional writer since 1986. Her work has been published in several Midwestern news outlets—in print and online. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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