Alpha-Gal Syndrome is the so-called ‘red meat’ allergy caused by a tick bite. The Lone Star tick is known to cause sensitivity to a sugar molecule (galactose-α-1,3-galactose) found in most mammals. Alpha-gal can be found in meats such as pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, and venison as well as products made from mammals (including gelatin, cow’s milk, and milk products).
The alpha-gal carbohydrate is found in the tick’s saliva, which is injected into a person’s skin during the tick’s feeding. In response, the person’s body will then release immunoglobulin E antibodies to combat the foreign substance’s presence. Later on, the person’s immune system may mount an attack after red meat is eaten and the Alpha-gal carbohydrate is digested.
Alpha-Gal Syndrome can manifest as hives, swelling, stomach upset, diarrhea, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, headaches, a drop in blood pressure, and in certain individuals, anaphylaxis. Reactions to eating meat, meat fumes, or food products and cosmetics that contain red meat byproducts may be experienced hours after coming into contact by those suffering with Alpha-Gal Syndrome, making the cause of symptoms difficult to detect.