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Histamine Toxicity from Fish Differential Diagnoses

  • Author: Alexei Birkun, III, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Timothy E Corden, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 22, 2016

Diagnostic Considerations

In patients who have been drinking alcohol, other problems to be considered in the differential diagnosis of histamine toxicity from fish include the following:

  • Chloral hydrate interaction (Mickey Finn)
  • Tyramine and monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) interaction
  • Disulfiram-type reaction
  • Ethanol flush

Considerations not related to alcohol ingestion include the following:

  • Chinese restaurant syndrome
  • Niacin flush
  • Acute allergic reaction
  • Mastocytosis
  • Migraine or cluster headache

Consumption of escolar (rudderfish, oilfish) can cause keriorrhoea, an oily diarrhea, because of the high waxy ester content of these fish. However, escolar consumption can also result in histamine toxicity, as was documented in a case report of a large outbreak.[11]

Differential Diagnoses

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Alexei Birkun, III, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of the Chair of Emergency Medicine and Anesthesiology, Medical Academy named after SI Georgievsky of VI Vernadsky Crimean Federal University; Critical Care Physician, Anesthesiologist, Department of Laparoscopic Surgery and New Medical Technologies, Crimea State Medical University Clinic

Alexei Birkun, III, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: European Respiratory Society, International Society for Infectious Diseases, The Aerosol Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


John D Patrick, MD Corresponding Member of the Faculty in Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Emeritus Staff Physician, Emergency Department, Mount Auburn Hospital

John D Patrick, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, Massachusetts Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Daniel Noltkamper, MD, FACEP EMS Medical Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Naval Hospital of Camp Lejeune

Daniel Noltkamper, MD, FACEP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Timothy E Corden, MD Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Co-Director, Policy Core, Injury Research Center, Medical College of Wisconsin; Associate Director, PICU, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

Timothy E Corden, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, Phi Beta Kappa, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Wisconsin Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Fred Harchelroad, MD, FACMT, FAAEM, FACEP Director of Medical Toxicology, Allegheny General Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robert L Norris, MD Professor, Department of Surgery, Chief, Division of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center

Robert L Norris, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, American Medical Association, California Medical Association, International Society of Toxinology, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, and Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Asim Tarabar, MD Assistant Professor, Director, Medical Toxicology, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jeffrey R Tucker, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Emergency Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Connecticut Children's Medical Center

Disclosure: Merck Salary Employment

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD Regional Director of Pharmacy, Sacred Heart and St Joseph's Hospitals

John T VanDeVoort, PharmD is a member of the following medical societies: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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An example of a typical histamine toxicity rash, in this case from tuna. Image courtesy of Amanda Oakley, MBChB, FRACP.
An example of a typical histamine toxicity rash, in this case from tuna. Image courtesy of Amanda Oakley, MBChB, FRACP.
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