Q. One evening five weeks ago, I had a weird allergic reaction. I hadn’t had any supper or taken any medicine, so my hives were puzzling. But I had had a hamburger for lunch. And I often get tick bites.
Three days later, I read your column about alpha-gal allergy and knew immediately it was what I had. My physician had never heard of alpha-gal. He sent me to an allergist who had never seen it either. A blood test revealed an antibody level of 5.48; anything over 0.35 is positive. Without your column–who knows?–I could have landed in the hospital.
A. Alpha-gal allergy is so peculiar that even many doctors don’t know much about it. The condition is triggered by the bite of a lone-star tick, and it results in a delayed but potentially very serious reaction to eating meat. Some sufferers experience digestive distress, hives, difficulty breathing or anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis can be lethal.
Once a person has been sensitized, the only solution is to avoid beef, pork, lamb and any other sort of mammalian meat. Chicken and fish are fine. Some people carry prescription epinephrine (EpiPen) in case of accidental exposure. There’s more information about alpha-gal allergy at PeoplesPharmacy.com.