What Causes “Red Meat Allergy”?
Alpha-Gal, also known as Red Meat Allergy, is a food allergy caused by a protein called Alpha-Gal. This causes an allergic reaction in those exposed to or who consumes meat from mammals. This allergic reaction was prevalent in certain parts of the United States. But this syndrome is spreading to the West and Northern states of the United States. Alpha-Gal could be life-threatening in some cases. This is because it gives rise to a condition called an anaphylactic reaction. Due to exposure or consumption of mammalian meat products, the immune system may release various chemicals, which result in the following conditions:
- The Narrowing of the Airways
- Blood pressure drops.
- Sudden allergic rashes
- Nausea and vomiting
- rapid or weak pulse.
These symptoms may occur within an hour or minutes after exposure to meat. One should seek the advice of a medical professional immediately to get relief from the above-stated symptoms and to avoid biphasic anaphylaxis. Biphasic means the recurrence of the anaphylaxis symptoms after the first. Otherwise, it may be fatal.
What Is The Cause Of Alpha-Gal?
Ticks are arthropods that get their nutrition from hematophagy. While they feed on their prey, they tend to release saliva. This saliva has a sugar molecule called the oligosaccharide galactose-⍺-1,3-galactose (α-gal). This molecule is also known as the “Alpha gal.” The alpha-gal molecule may be present in mammals such as cows, pigs, dogs, etc. The immune system reacts to the alpha-gal molecule. This reaction causes a meat allergy. The response may be absent in some patients. So studies are being conducted regarding the cofactors of the allergen, the dose of alpha-gal, and the nature of the sugar molecule.
What Are The Symptoms of Alpha-Gal Syndrome?
Alpha-Gal Syndrome has the following symptoms: Studies have determined that it takes 2 to 6 hours for the reaction to arise after consuming meat.
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulty
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Inflammation of the throat, lips, tongue, or eyelids
- Stomach ache
This reaction occurs when eating meat from cows, sheep, goats, etc. Gelatin-coated medications can also cause severe reactions. If these symptoms occur, get the help of a medical practitioner. As already mentioned, it is a life-threatening syndrome.
How Is Alpha-Gal Diagnosed?
An allergist would examine the following to determine whether one has the Alpha-Gal Syndrome:
- Blood tests to understand the chemicals released by the patient’s immune system in response to the Alpha gal molecule.
- Physical examination
- History of the patient
What Do You Do If One Has The “Alpha-Gal Syndrome”?
There is no specific medication for Alpha-Gal or Red Meat Allergy. It is significant to seek advice from medical professionals. They may advise you to take a safe diet and share information about possible foods containing Alpha gal molecules.
What Are The Ticks Responsible For The Alpha-Gal Syndrome?
- The lone star tick, turkey tick, or “Cricket Tick” is responsible for the alpha-gal syndrome. These ticks are found in tall grasses and bushes. These can be found in the forest to grassland transition zones.
- They are hard ticks.
- Their females have star-shaped spots on their backs. The males have white dots on the margins of their scutum.
- They are reddish-brown. Due to climate change, these ticks are populating those uninhabited regions. So it is expected that the tick syndrome may spread to areas away from the conventional Lone Star tick abundant regions.
- These ticks get this sugar molecule, alpha-gal, from mammals such as sheep and cows.
Prevention of Alpha-Gal Syndrome
- Avoiding the Alpha-Gal Syndrome is as simple as preventing Lone Star ticks. This can be accomplished by applying tick repellent creams containing a high concentration of DEET. Furthermore, by wearing permethrin-treated clothing,
- Showering after returning from the outdoors
- Check for ticks.
- Avoid tick-infested regions.
Who Is Vulnerable To Getting Alpha-Gal Syndrome?
- People of all age groups may be vulnerable.
- People who have a healthy immune system or have pre-existing conditions may also get it.
- Only one aspect which affects getting the Alpha-Gal Syndrome is tick bites. Anyone who consumes meat infested with a tick bite may get the syndrome.
What Are The Foods To Avoid?
The foods that may trigger an immune system response are:
- Certain medications made with animal gelatin
- Avoiding Mammal meat products such as beef, pork, and lamb
- Avoid milk and other dairy products.
- Certain vaccines that may create an immune system response.