I thought I’d treat myself to a Sushi lunch from Pret before a meeting on Wednesday. Bad idea, because during my meeting I developed the symptoms of Scombroid toxin poisoning. It’s a nasty thing to get, but fortunately I’d had it before and knew what I had to do…
About 9 months ago I suffered a reaction to some tuna steak I had eaten at the work canteen. The fish has been cooked, and didn’t taste “off” at all.
Within 10 minutes of finishing it, I felt hot and flushed. I could feel my blood pumping very hard around my face and body, and I began to get a funny taste in my mouth. My tongue and throat began to swell up too. This began to cause me some breathing discomfort, and it was at that point I decided to seek medical attention from the Occupational Health department.
It turned out I had suffered an allergic reaction to Scombroid Toxin, from eating spoilt tuna. They gave me a fast-acting anti-histamine tablet – and that began to fight the reaction. It still took 3 hours to come out of it, and left me very tired for days.
Scombroid poisoning comes from a toxin produced in the flesh of Scombroidal fish (hence the name) such as tuna and salmon. It is produced if the fish is not refrigerated and handled correctly. Cooking it doesn’t remove the toxin, and you can barely taste the toxin (it taste’s peppery, so you can’t taste it at all if you have a sauce with the fish).
If you, or someone you are with, begins to develop the symptoms described above then you/they need to take a fast-acting antihistamine like Benadryl (non-drowsy) or Piroton (causes drowsiness) immediately. You should not take an “all day” slow release tablet like Claritin (loratadine) as this will not provide enough antihistamine immediately but will prevent you from being able to take a fast-acting one later on.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this will happen to anyone that eat’s spoilt fish (it’s not that I have an intolerance to it).
My Sushi didn’t contain tuna, but I threw away the packaging – so I don’t know what fish was in there. Nevertheless, I certainly wouldn’t eat these types of fish before boarding an aircraft or similar situations. I will also carry a dose of Benadryl with me at all times in my wallet.
You can find out more about Scombroid Toxin Poisoning here: http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HGIC3662.htm
(I’d like to point out that this information comes from my personal experience and generally interest in pharmacology. It’s not formal medical advice, and shouldn’t be taken as such. Don’t hold me responsible for any liabilities caused from following this information – in particular you shouldn’t take anti-histamines if you are allergic to them. You should always seek proper medical advice where necessary)h