An allergic reaction linked to mammalian meat was first described in 2011 and has grown in frequency since. This allergy, known as alpha-gal sensitivity, is the delayed reaction to meat and can be life-threatening. Consider the following frequently asked questions about alpha-gal sensitivity:
What causes this allergy?
Meat consists of several components, one of which being a carbohydrate. If you have an alpha gal allergy, your body is reacting to the carbohydrate that is found in mammalian meat. Many people are confused by the term “mammalian” meat. Simply put, it is any meat that can be found in a mammal such as a cow, pig, goat, and lamb.
What does an alpha-gal allergic reaction look like?
It depends on your body and how sensitive you are to the meat. Some people may experience abdominal cramping and pain, an itchy throat, hives, nausea, and diarrhea. In the most severe cases, a person may experience anaphylactic shock. An important factor to note about an alpha-gal allergic reaction is that it is usually delayed. If you experience these symptoms three to six hours after eating red meat, don’t ignore them.
What does a tick have to do with this allergy?
Alpha-gal sensitivity can be linked to tick bites. When a tick bites a person, it may cause the body to produce an allergic class of antibodies that attaches itself to the carbohydrate found in mammalian meat. If this occurs and the person eats the meat, the meat will release histamines (thus, the allergic reaction and the requirement of an anti-histamine). Because ticks are found all over Georgia, it’s important to take extra precaution while outdoors to avoid getting bit.
What can I do about it?
If you suspect an allergy to mammalian meat, contact the Langford Allergy team right away. They can diagnose your allergy and give you resourceful tools to safeguard yourself from an allergic reaction. If you are experiencing an allergic reaction, call 911 immediately for medical help and administer your epinephrine injector while you wait for help.