Abdominal pain can be caused by a variety of triggers, and often you only need to look to your last meal to figure out what is causing your cramps. According to the website Ask Dr. Sears, consuming fish is a common cause of stomach cramps, particularly in children. This is because fish has the distinction of being one of the most common allergy triggers, and it also can harbor bacteria that causes food poisoning.
If you suspect that eating fish caused your stomach cramps, thinking about the frequency with which the symptoms occur will help you determine whether the pain should be attributed to food poisoning or a food allergy. Food poisoning is generally a one-time thing, though some people are more sensitive to harmful bacteria and may contract the illness more frequently than others. If you have eaten that specific variety of fish previously will no ill effects, then food poisoning is likely the culprit. However, if the stomach pain occurs frequently after consuming fish and other seafood, you may have an allergy.
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Ask Dr. Sears says that food poisoning is characterized by sudden-onset abdominal cramps, usually within one to eight hours of eating. Fish, especially undercooked or raw fish, is one of the most common carriers of harmful bacteria that causes food poisoning.
Freshwater and saltwater fish, as well as shellfish, can all be food allergy triggers. The text "Personal Nutrition" says that many people are sensitive to the proteins in fish and seafood, and this sensitivity can cause stomach cramping soon after ingesting these foods. Because food allergies can become increasingly severe over time, it's important to keep close tabs on any foods that you think may be causing abdominal pain. In fish, for example, you should record the exact type that you ingested, as well as how it was prepared and what it was served with. That will help the doctor properly diagnose your allergy.
Both food poisoning and fish allergies generally are accompanied by symptoms in addition to stomach cramps. Food poisoning often causes vomiting and diarrhea. Diarrhea and vomiting can also appear in food allergy cases, but more common symptoms include itchy, dry skin with a sudden rash. In both cases, cramps are likely to be the first sign that something is amiss.
Food poisoning generally passes on its own within several hours. If you suspect you have food poisoning from eating fish, focus on taking in as many fluids as you can, especially if you are vomiting, until the episode passes. If a fish allergy is likely, get to a doctor as soon as possible. He will perform tests to officially diagnose your allergy and give you advice on how to best avoid episodes in the future.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.