A red meat allergy caused by tick bites is an emerging public health concern, according to two new studies from the CDC.
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Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that arises after people eat red meat or consume products with alpha-gal, a type of sugar found in most mammals, the CDC says.
The syndrome is typically caused by a bite from the lone star tick, which transfers alpha-gal into the victim’s body which in turn triggers an immune system response.
The CDC says the number of AGS cases are underdiagnosed in the U.S. and — despite the spread of the condition — many clinicians aren’t even aware it exists, let alone how to diagnose it.
People who suffer from AGS may experience wide ranging symptoms, including hives or itchy rash; nausea or vomiting; heartburn or indigestion; diarrhea; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; drop in blood pressure; swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, or eye lids; dizziness or faintness; or severe stomach pain. Symptoms commonly appear 2-6 hours after eating food or other exposure to products containing alpha-gal (for example, gelatin-coated medications). AGS is diagnosed by an allergist or other healthcare provider and requires a thorough history with compatible symptoms, and diagnostic testing for antibodies specific to alpha-gal. Your healthcare provider may also recommend allergy skin testing.
CDC » What is Alpha-gal Syndrome »