What is Alpha-gal Allergy?

Alpha-gal allergy is a recently identified type of food allergy to red meat and other meat from mammals. In the United States, the condition most often begins when a lone star tick bites someone. The bite transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into the person’s body. In some people, this triggers a delayed allergic reaction that occurs 4 to 8 hours later. Symptoms include hives, shortness of breath, itching and nausea. The lone star tick is found predominantly in the southeastern United States, and most cases of alpha-gal allergy occur in this region. It is spreading farther north and west as deer carry the tick to other regions. Researchers now believe that some people who have frequent, unexplained anaphylactic reactions – and who test negative for other food allergies – may have alpha-gal allergy instead. Keys to prevention include avoiding mammal meat and tick bites. Protect against tick bites by wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and using insect repellents when you’re in wooded areas. Do a thorough, full-body tick check after spending time outside.

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