Q. I almost died from an allergic reaction to lamb chops. I was surprised when my allergist asked about ticks, but told him I had gotten into a nest of seed ticks a year ago. Now I have to avoid all meat. I carry an Epi-Pen just in case I am exposed accidentally.
I have also been avoiding cheese, since it is produced with the use of rennet, an animal product. Am I being overly cautious?
A. You are describing alpha-gal allergy, a condition that is initially triggered by a tick bite. People then develop a delayed allergic reaction to meat, including beef, pork, lamb and even venison or rabbit. Chicken, turkey and fish do not trigger the allergy, which can range from itchy hives to the type of anaphylactic reaction you experienced.
According to the lab at the University of Virginia that uncovered this condition, most patients with alpha-gal allergy are able to eat cheese without reacting. You might want to learn more about this from our one-hour interview with the lead researcher, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills.