“Is there such a thing as red meat allergy?”

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In recent years it has been discovered that a tick bite can lead to a delayed food allergy to mammalian meat products (meat from any kind of mammal). Red meat typically includes beef, pork, goat, and lamb, but patients can still tolerate chicken, turkey, and fish. In contrast to other food allergies, which are typically immediate (5-30 minutes), red meat allergy usually occurs 3 to 6 hours after ingestion. Another common name for this is Alpha-gal allergy. The Lone Star tick, Amblyomma americanum, is thought to be the sensitizing tick in the United States. Typical symptoms include hives, angioedema (swelling of the soft tissues), upset stomach, or anaphylaxis. Several patients report waking in the middle of the night with symptoms. This often makes diagnosis very difficult. History, along with blood work and/or a skin test, is key for making a diagnosis. Treatment consists of ALL red meat avoidance and carrying an epinephrine auto injector. If you think you might be allergic to red meat, contact us. We can help!

Adrianne N. Edmundson, MD

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