The Hidden Danger Of Cicadas If You Have A Seafood Allergy

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard that cicadas are back, swarming the Eastern U.S. in large masses for the first time in 17 years (via NBC News). While cicadas have long been known for exuding a loud humming noise that can be deafening in large quantities, they are becoming popular for a different reason.

Whether it be on a dare or to try a new protein, cicadas have been put on the menu during their resurgence. But there are some people who should pass on these cicada dishes, as it could be dangerous.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning via Twitter this week against consuming cicadas for those with seafood allergies. The reason being that cicadas, "share a family relation to shrimp and lobsters." 

You may be wondering how a bug can be in the same family as shellfish or fish, both of which are included in the top 8 major food allergens groups (via FDA). Cicadas belong to the same "Arthropoda" family as crabs, crayfish, lobsters, and shrimp — along with insects like crickets and lady bugs. In lieu of a backbone, arthropods have a hard exterior as well as jointed appendages, painting a lot of similarities between ocean-dwelling lobsters and land-dwelling insects (via Health).

Allergic reaction symptoms to look out for

While additional research on insect allergies is still needed, researchers believe that people who suffer from shellfish allergies are particularly vulnerable to developing allergic reactions to insects due to their similarities (via NBC News).

So what can happen if you're allergic to shellfish and chow down on a cicada? The worst-case scenario is a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include abdominal cramps, coughing or wheezing, difficulty breathing, dizziness or lightheadedness, flushed skin, rash, hives, loss of consciousness, facial swelling, itchiness, and vomiting or diarrhea (via FDA). These symptoms can occur immediately or as much as several hours after allergen exposure. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.

If you don't have a shellfish allergy, feel free to try out the latest cicada recipe as experts say they are not toxic to humans (via Health). However, if you don't typically eat insects, you may experience a slight upset stomach upon introducing this new food into your diet. Additionally, be sure to cook cicadas at a high temperature all the way through to eliminate possible foodborne illness.