People with this allergy may experience mild discomfort after eating meat, or they may have a dangerous reaction that leaves them unable to breathe. The spectrum of reactions to alpha-gal varies. Most instances of this allergy are triggered by tick bites.
People aren’t born with an allergy to alpha-gal. Almost anyone who has an alpha-gal allergy develop it as an adult, though children can get it. Bites from the lone star tick have been shown to cause alpha-gal allergies. Some research argues that ticks are the only real cause of this sort of allergy.
Ticks contain alpha-gal. A tick bite triggers your immune system to react to alpha-gal as a defense mechanism. The antibodies that your body makes to protect you from the tick bite remain in your system. These antibodies will then combat alpha-gal when you eat meat that contains it.
Living in areas where lone star ticks are prevalent puts you at a higher risk of this happening. The lone star tick lives primarily in the southeastern and eastern United States.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of meat allergies are similar to those of other kinds of allergies. Hives, headaches, and a runny nose after eating meat from a mammal are all common with alpha-gal allergy. But allergic reactions can vary greatly on a case-by-case basis. Your allergic reaction might look different from someone else’s.
Alpha-gal allergy can cause:
runny nose or congestion
anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that shuts down your body’s ability to breathe
The most serious complication from alpha-gal allergy, and any allergy, is the risk of anaphylaxis. A person who has been bitten by a tick might not know that they have developed an alpha-gal allergy until they’re experiencing symptoms. Even then, they might not draw the conclusion that the tick bite is related to this new allergy.
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