Definition

What is Meat allergy?

Red meat allergy, also known as Alpha-gal allergy is a condition that causes a person to have anaphylactic and hypersensitivity reactions when they eat meat.

The term alpha-gal is short for galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose, a carbohydrate molecule that can cause an allergic reaction in people with an alpha-gal allergy.

The molecule is found in the meat of mammals, including cows, sheep, venison, bison, and pigs.

How common is Meat allergy?

Meat allergy is not common. Itwas only identified in 2006 and doctors are still learning about the condition. Cases of alpha-gal allergy are becoming increasingly common but are still considered rare. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Meat allergy?

The common symptoms of Meat allergy are:

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Stuffy/runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Anaphylaxis, a severe potentially deadly allergic reaction that restricts breathing

In some instances, it can take up to 4 to 6 hours after eating red meat before a reaction occurs. So, people with an alpha-gal allergy do not always associate the reaction with what they have eaten. Symptoms do not necessarily occur every time the person eats red meat.

The immune system of people with an alpha-gal allergy treats the alpha-gal molecule in meat as a physical threat to the body. Histamine and other chemicals are released to try to “protect” the person, and these cause an allergic reaction.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

An anaphylactic reaction restricts breathing and can be fatal, so it needs immediate medical treatment. Although rare, it has been known for people with an alpha-gal allergy to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

If you or your loved one has any signs or symptoms listed above or you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Meat allergy?

Although Lone Star tick bites are not the only significant cause of alpha-gal allergies, they are estimated to be responsible for around 80 percent of cases.

When alpha-gal enters the body, via a tick bite or otherwise, the immune system produces antibodies to fight the molecule.

It remains unclear exactly what substance in the tick’s saliva causes the development of alpha-gal antibodies.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Meat allergy?

A meat allergy can develop any time in life. If you are allergic to one type of meat, it is possible you also are allergic to other meats, as well as to poultry, such as chicken, turkey and duck.

Many people who acquire an alpha-gal allergy have no history of other allergies or allergic symptoms.

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Meat allergy diagnosed?

Discovering whether the person has had a tick bite in the preceding weeks or months will help a doctor make a diagnosis.

Often a doctor or allergist will ask:

  • What and how much the person ate before the reaction
  • How long it took for symptoms to develop
  • What symptoms occurred and how long they lasted

Characteristics of meat allergies differ from other allergies, as people do not usually experience symptoms until at least 2 hours after eating meat. This delay can help doctors diagnose an alpha-gal allergy.

However, as the connection between the symptoms and the consumption of meat is not always clear, often it takes an allergist with expert knowledge of the condition to diagnose it.

A blood test will identify whether alpha-gal antibodies are present in an individual’s bloodstream. Results usually take 1 to 2 weeks.

A skin test can also be done, which involves a small amount of the food allergen pricked onto the skin.

If a wheal (a bump similar to a mosquito bite) develops, then it is a positive result. The test takes about 20 minutes and can be uncomfortable, but not usually painful.

How is Meat allergy treated?

Once an allergy is diagnosed, the best treatment is for the person to avoid the trigger. In this case, all mammal meats should be avoided.

The first-line treatment for the serious reactions of anaphylaxis is epinephrine, which is available on prescription as an auto-injector. Epinephrine auto-injectors are sometimes called by the name of one brand of the device, EpiPen.

People diagnosed with an alpha-gal allergy will probably be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector and be shown how to use it.

Anyone with the allergy should carry two doses of epinephrine with them at all times. They should use the auto-injector immediately if they have symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Meat allergy?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Meat allergy:

A person diagnosed with an alpha-gal allergy will probably have to change their diet and be careful when they eat out. Seafood, poultry, and eggs are acceptable protein choices for those with alpha-gal allergies. Many people can also tolerate dairy products.

How cautious a person needs to be will depend on how severe their symptoms are. For example, some people experience a reaction if their food was prepared in the same kitchen as red meat.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: February 9, 2018 | Last Modified: February 9, 2018

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