The People's Perspective on Medicine

830 Alpha-Gal Allergy (archive)

The reaction to a bite from a lone star tick could be a delayed anaphylactic reaction to eating meat. This alpha-gal allergy can be life threatening.
Tick ticks bug bite lyme alphagal alpha gal insect tick bite alpha gal

In some parts of the country, emergency room physicians have been faced with a puzzling scenario: the patient awakens in the middle of the night with unbearable itching, hives, low blood pressure or trouble breathing. Usually, such an anaphylactic reaction is an immediate response to an exposure like an insect sting. But these people have been in bed for hours.

We talk with a patient who had this frightening experience and with the allergist who treated him. We also learn about the discovery of this improbable allergy to red meat, triggered by the bite of a tick.

The Guests:

Mike Beck is a health and welfare consultant with Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Maya Jerath, MD, PhD, is Mike’s doctor. She is director of the UNC Allergy and Immunology Clinic and assistant professor in Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Thomas Platts-Mills, MD, is professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Virginia and head of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He is past president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). You can find an abstract of his May, 2011, article here.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    comments (110 total)
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    I live in Uganda and know several Ugandans that have developed a severe allergy to red meat.
    The locals have a herb they eat and are cured the next day. Some also claim they now have a craving for red meat for a short while after recovering from the allergy.

    I have tried to contact specialists in Australia that have written articles on the tick and the allergy with not one answer except a single computer reply.

    I do not know if or not it is the same disease but I do know that the herb works in most cases and obviously the herb is not poisonous.

    If you know someone that is interested in seriously investigating and is qualified if or not this herb is the cure.

    Will Thompson

    My IgE tests were negative for allergies to beef, pork, milk, alpha-gal. My skin tests were positive for beef, pork and some other minor allergies to dogs, pollen, trees, grasses. I avoided beef, pork for 4.5 months and got another unexpected attack. I think it was butter.

    I cut out anything with butter, milk fat, buttermilk in it. I’m drinking Fairlife milk which is triple strained to get rid of sugars/fats and haven’t had a reaction. The weird thing is that my reactions occur within 15-25 min. after eating.

    My doctor says I wasn’t bit by a tick. About 2 months before my first severe reaction I’d received a vaccine which I had a bad reaction from. My arm was red, hot and swollen from my shoulder to my elbow. I ran a low grade fever for a week and felt sick. The rash, pain and swelling lasted 2 weeks. Then, 2 months after that I had my first reaction with diarrhea, stomach pain and feeling like passing out.

    I was misdiagnosed with Gastroenteritis and two weeks later I had another severe reaction that was even worse. It took over a month to get an allergy appointment which caused me to have several more bouts of anaphylaxis. The quality of my life has gone downhill. I’m very disgusted at the improper treatment at my local ER. They failed to recognize my first 2 attacks. They refuse to give me oxygen and fluids every time even though I’m showing that I’m low on oxygen, ECG shows heart rhythm problems, hypotension, diarrhea.

    When they failed to initially diagnose anaphylaxis, I was extremely hypotensive and dehydrated for an hour before I broke out in hives and then they finally gave me an epi injection. I had Tachycardia and bradycardia for 6 weeks after leaving the ER along with terrible short term memory loss.

    I too have the Alfa gal allergy. I am interested to know if the fat content from the red meat and dairy increases the severity of the reaction. I only have reactions to dairy that are high in fat content. Also the leaner the beef and pork the less problems I have. A hamburger will send me to the moon!

    I just want people in nj to know I went to the private practice of the head of hospital allergy/immunology dept , Monmouth County, and he said idiopathic anaphalactic. Went to another dr in the group,not the head dr ,and she took the time to listen and then test for Alpha Gal …. BINGO ………so how does someone get to be the head of a dept and does or cares less then an up and coming dr ?????? At least I now know and can prevent further attacks……….just saying

    I just want people in nj to know I went to the private practice of the head of hospital allergy/immunology dept , Monmouth County, and he said idiopathic anaphalactic. Went to another dr in the group,not the head dr ,and she took the time to listen and then test for Alpha Gal …. BINGO ………so how does someone get to be the head of a dept and does or cares less then an up and coming dr ?????? At least I now know and can prevent further attacks……….just saying

    If you are a Veteran with this condition, you CAN, with persistence get the VA to recognize this condition. I don’t think that you will be able to get any disability rating for it, but they will pay for the tests and and give you epi-pens and benadryl. It took over 14 months of visiting, writing and phoning both the VA and my Senator, but eventually they gave in. Don’t allow the Fee Based Clerks to snow you – keep fighting. (I had one Fee-Based Clerk tell me that if I persisted that I might lose my pension….)

    Why and who is doing research to find a cure to this?????? There are now thousands of people afflicted by this, and no one has found a resolution yet….. Very disappointing…..

    I’ve known to avoid mammalian meat (and mm products – cheese, butter, milk, etc.) for 3.5 years. Prior to that my diagnosis was ‘idiopathic anaphylaxsis’. My current concerns center on medications that contain mammalian meat products such as gelatin, lactose, etc…. gelatin is used as a heat protectant in flu vaccines and Spireva(sp?) to name just 2 medicines.
    Listening to the August 2013 radio broadcast, could the cancer drug mentioned contain mammalian meat products/product?
    Is this even an issue? If so, is any data available? Is the allergy only evidenced digestively?
    Because none of my physicians (including 2 allergists) can conclusively answer my questions, I’m leery of most medications.
    Any advice or information sources?
    People’s Pharmacy response: The cancer drug mentioned doesn’t contain mammalian meat products, but it does contain a sugar very similar to the one that causes the reaction. Your questions are excellent, but we don’t think any research exists to answer them.

    I have had the alpha gal syndrome for almost two years. I was undiagnosed for 8 months and almost died from a flu shot. Finally diagnosed myself when I had a sneezing fit 3 hours after eating a pork chop. I never have sneezing unless outside exposure and had not been our all day. I googled– can you be allergic to pork and have sneezing fit? The answer gave me all the information about alpha gal.

    What a relief to finally know how to avoid the terrible reactions. It’s not easy because ingredients are not always available. I am down to about one minor reaction a week,. And major reaction once a month. Thank God for Google!

    I am 19 years old and have had this allergy for almost two years now and am constantly finding new things I outbreak too. In the beginning I had a hard time eating peanut butter products and red dye. Now I am finding that I am allergic to vinegar as well. I just don’t understand this allergy. It is so unpredictable. Recently, I have noticed that when I become sick (flu, stomach bug) I have an outbreak the next day even though I have eaten nothing for almost 24 hours. Anyone else experience this?

    It’s important to refer to this as an allergy to ‘mammalian’ meat rather than an allergy to ‘red’ meat. The word ‘mammalian’ (any animal that nurses it’s young) is specific to meat that is off limits.
    I will always miss a good rib eye steak, Lexington style BBQ, cheese and butter but feel so good and healthy without these foods in my diet. Cheese and butter don’t cause an anaphylactic response but do negatively affect my digestion process.

    I just have resently became allergic to dairy because of a tick bite. I have not ate dairy in 2 days and still have outbreaks.

    My mother has had this allergy for approximately 27 years. I have had it for 20 years, my wife for 15 and we know numerous friends and acquaintances who are afflicted. Very glad to hear the subject is gaining wider notice and understanding.
    While I miss consuming all red meats my dietary shift has been accommodated by the growing choice of alternative protien sources. I must admit that because of this affliction I have become better informed about nutrition and the food chain. The ill-treatment of animals including fowl for mass production has become distasteful. The wide use of antibiotics and growth hormones is a concern as well. I feel I owe the tick a debt of gratitude by forcing on me this reevaluation.

    My allergist had my alpha gal test done and I live in NW Arkansas. It took almost 8 days, but she knew automatically what it was.

    Was I ever blown away from the 8/3 radio program on this subject. However, no one has mentioned one of my symptoms, which is dry/numb mouth which began 1/30/13 and has not yet abated entirely. Sometimes it is worse than others, notice it especially after meals (anything.) But within 30 days of this presentation, 2/24/13, I woke up with angio-edema on lower face, mouth, tongue and roof of mouth. I looked like I had had Botox injections. Off to Urgent-Care at 9:00 am and the first thing dr said was “what did you eat last night?” Only a hamburger (I made), nothing unusual.
    12 days of predisone later (and benadryl once a day at night for some time) and no episode like that again. Neck itching I have had off and on for years, and that was/is still occasionally prevalent. I have eaten meat for years — before and since this — without this severe reaction, but did have a tick bite last summer which was on the back of my ankle for over 24 hrs and not easy to remove. It did itch, and now there is a small, hard kernel under the skin where the wound was. I want to know where to get the blood-test for Alpha-Gal. Dr mentioned UVA had a patent on it. Do you have to go to UVA? I live in Roanoke, VA.
    People’s Pharmacy response: Your doctor will need to inquire about the test.

    Remember to mention that that rat or mice cells in prescription drugs can cause the reaction and if they are injected like they were to me (I have the allergy), the reaction is immediate. I got a very bad reaction to an injectable drug and it was immediate so we need to be careful of this reaction as well. This was the first time I had to go to the hospital for the allergy.

    I live in the Triangle as well, and I went to see Dr. Jerath who is featured in this broadcast, she is at UNC. she says that most people with this can tolerate dairy, which is obviously also a mammalian product, but not everyone can.
    I know someone with alpha gal who consumed dairy regularly without problems until one day when he had an anaphylactic reaction. Sounds like you may also have trouble with it. I avoid dairy because I feel better when I do and I don’t want to risk any more terrible reactions like I had for years until I heard the original broadcast of this show which literally changed my life.

    I was interested to see that you did another show on this topic. After your first show on it (just shy of 2 years ago) I was able to figure out that this was the probable cause of my stomach issues after eating meat. (I have since been officially diagnosed with the alpha-gal allergy via a blood test)
    I think it might be helpful to point out that one sign of a potential anaphylactic reaction is severe crampy stomach pain. Hives, difficulty breathing and low blood pressure are frequently mentioned, but not the stomach pains. (Mike Beck did mention them in passing, but it was never repeated.)
    Like I mentioned, I heard your first broadcast about this allergy, and was interested enough to look up anaphylaxis on a medical website (Up to Date) which is where I saw the information about stomach cramps. A light went on in my head “That is EXACTLY what happens 4-5 hours after I eat meat or pork!” I did not recognize that as a symptom of anaphylaxis, and I’m a nurse.
    Please let your listeners know that they need to be concerned if they have issues with bad stomach cramps after eating meat, it is also a potential symptom of this allergy.
    I now have an epi-pen.

    I listened to your program today about the alpha-gal allergy. I have it. I thought it was from abstaining for many years from eating beef and pork because of my roommate not eating it and because we ate meals together. I thought that the occasional times I tried to eat beef or pork, it was because of not eating it but rarely for 5 or 6 years, I had developed an allergy. I have not been eating beef for about 8 years now due to the reaction. Anyway, I also have MS and am on an interferon drug and have to inject it often and didn’t know if that had anything to do with it. I went on this assumption until I got a new neurologist in 2013 who had studied at University of Virginia and he said my allergy was because of the Lone Star tick. I was skeptical of this theory because I liked mine more because of another person with MS has this allergy and had done the same thing as I did as you will hear next.
    Another MS person I know also went on a low fat MS diet where she abstained from beef and pork for about a year or two (the Swank diet for MS) and when she went back to eating it, she too got an allergic reaction to beef and pork. So her thoughts were identical to mine, that it was from abstaining and then eating it. I knew of no one else who had the allergy and knew no one who had performed the same identical practice and was on the same drug. She was also on interferon injecting drug like mine so I still thought it tied into the idea.
    For me, it didn’t take until I went to bed to get the reaction. I usually eat around 6:30-7:30pm and I would get a reaction within about 3 hours and I was always up at that time. I would start getting an itching ear and then the other ear and then my head and then my entire body and it would turn red like I had poison ivy. The first few times, it was mild and then it got worse and worse. But I basically got the hives. It took about 4-5 times before I connected the problem to beef and then to pork. It NEVER gave me problems with my throat but for my other friend with MS, it did cause that problem for her. She has to carry around the epi pen now. I don’t because I don’t have the throat problem, thank goodness. We both thought that it was because we had stopped eating beef and pork and went back that we got the allergy from that. That was because we both did it.
    A few years ago someone gave me beef thinking it was vegetarian and I got real sick and I got nauseous for hours along with the other hive symptom. I got the beef in the middle of the day and I got the reaction worse because I had eaten the whole hamburger thinking it was vegetarian because the two guys cooking it swore to me that it was. But it sure tasted like meat and unfortunately, it was.
    I can get bison on my local farmer’s market. I decided I would try a very small amount (about an inch of a patty) and it did cause the same reaction to a lesser extent. I just got real itchy and red. But it wasn’t a big deal. So I learned that I couldn’t eat any meat, whether it was organic or not and whether it was beef or pork or bison or anything other than chicken or fish. I have since become a vegetarian. But I do eat organic yogurt and sometimes cheese and do not get a reaction from that. I do not miss beef or pork.
    Now, your theory about it always causing a delay reaction is not always true. I went off of my interferon drug and went on a drug called Tysabri, another drug for MS. It is injected in a doctor’s office. Well, within a few minutes of the injection, I started getting the itchy ear and the red body and apparently I got low blood pressure because the nurse insisting on calling the paramedics and sent me to the local hospital. I went but refused to be admitted because I knew that I would not have the problem with breathing or throat swelling up. I just got the same reaction as the meat and that it would go away within an hour or so. I told my neurologist at the time, as they were rolling me out, that there must be some kind of rat meat in the medicine. Sure enough, there is some rat or mice in the drug, Tysabri. Interestingly enough, the MS friend who has the allergy was going to try Tysabri and so I called her to warn her. I told her that she would probably get the allergy reaction and sure enough she did. She had to get the epi shot and go to the hospital. She was allergic as well. She got the reaction almost immediately as did I.
    So when the substance is given by injection, the reaction is more immediate. If taken orally, it takes a while for it to get to the gut and it must be where it is allergic. It takes about 3 hours for me. Anyway, thought you would like to know. And it doesn’t always cause the anaphylactic shock with the breathing difficulties because it has never caused that problem with me.
    Thanks for the story. I enjoyed it. I will probably listen to it again because I also have the fungus on the foot and was preoccupied and didn’t get to hear the whole story about that. I have a bad case and don’t know if that has anything to do with the alpha gal allergy.

    I wanted to let you all know that beef is in many innocuous-seeming products and medicines through gelatin. Any medicine packaged in a capsule is likely to be beef-based, unless it’s labelled vegan. Also, jello and marshmallows! I don’t have this alarming condition, but am extremely sensitive to beef protein, so I’ve found these hidden sources through the years. I agree that cross-contamination is a huge problem when eating out. That Peoples Pharmacy. You guys are awesome!

    The deer connection is interesting. Consider that in the South there’s only three animals big enough to take down a deer. One of them needs a gun to do it, and another, the red wolf, is functionally extinct. I am not surprised the deer population is high enough to start exacerbating the problem like this.

    I was very interested in Don’s comment from Aug. 3 (’13) about putting a salt patch on tick bites. I have been planning to put a slightly-chewed plantain leaf on any tick bites I get. I’ve had great success with plantain removing the venom from a bee sting and had it remove the infection from an infected finger. I’ve also heard of people using activated charcoal powder or various clay powders, mixed with a tiny bit of water, to draw out toxins.
    Do not feel powerless!

    I enjoyed yesterday’s program about Apha-gal. I have a dog who may have a food allergy to various meats. Since dogs may be more often bitten by ticks than humans, and food allergies are common in canines, I wondered it there might be a connection. It certainly would explain a lot of problems with dogs and cats.
    Would you please pass this e-mail on to Dr. Platts-Mills. Thank you.

    I’ve had this condition for about two years. I’ve known about it for one year. I’ve been able to avoid further allergic outbreaks by sticking to fins and feathers. Recently I took one bite of a beef dish and a few hours later had a minor outbreak. The weirdest part was that a few of my old seed tick bites came back to life as if they were networked.
    Before I got it under control, I reacted to both beef and pork. My experience is that beef makes larger, irregular shaped hives. Pork makes smaller, circular hives. As I mentioned above, I’ve also had reactions to JuJuBes.
    About the time I began having these reactions, I also developed an anxiety disorder and high blood pressure. Some days I have no energy and feel like I have a mild fever. I wonder if the tick bites were responsible for that also. I had hundreds of seed tick or nymph star tick bites on one foot alone.
    I haven’t had a bad reaction from dairy, but I don’t eat many dairy products, especially now. I’m too scared. I went to the ER three times behind this allergy before I figured it out, thanks to a wise allergist.
    It’s no fun, but when it’s under control, I can live around it. I worry now that my wife will get bitten while she’s gardening.

    Missed the show today but will listen to the rebroadcast tomorrow. I live in the Raleigh NC area; our home is in a heavily wooded area, basically tick heaven. We’ve gotten chomped often, despite taking precautions in how we dress when working outside, etc. You have to mingle with the ticks, if nothing else when hacking away at the undergrowth, etc that provides such favorable habitat.
    Last August & September I had several allergic reactions and by number three realized the only similar variable was hamburger consumed 2 – 3 hours earlier. Searched Google and found a Discover magazine article published August 2012 titled “How a tick bite made me allergic to hamburger”, written by a gal from Durham, just up the road. Like this program, it was a Godsend, making me one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to struggle for years to figure it out. Her description of her experience fit me to a T.
    I’ll start itching if I put 1% milk in my tea. Of course mammal meat is OFF the menu, like others I miss it but it’s easy to stay away from, given what happens!
    I find I am more sensitive to a number of things, like (sob) beer. I drank about four ounces of one last night, started itching and the rest went down the drain, and I started pounding water.
    I’d love to know if others have found other allergies pop up or find sensitivity to allergens amped up, since experiencing the alpha gal allergy. I also developed endolymphatic hydrops in one ear – basically inner ear fluid imbalance but thank the Lord without vertigo. No idea if they are related. I wouldn’t think so, but then I never thought I’d have the alpha gal allergy, either.
    Forums like this are so helpful because people know you’re not nuts and can shed light on the condition. Thanks to everyone!

    Peter, you can find vegan beer at I kept getting hives, come to find out that some wines clarified with glycerin or gelatin.

    I have posted before when I finally found out that there was a name for the meat allergy I’ve suffered with since I moved to Oklahoma in 1994. I am still allergic to meat although I can eat bacon in moderation and a few bites of pork roast as long as I didn’t eat it the night before.
    I too was considered a lunatic when I went to the doctor in the 90’s. I figured out pretty quickly that I was allergic to meat I just didn’t know why since I grew up on ground beef and was in my 40’s when I had my first experience with ticks.
    I live in the country and get bit every year. I am less allergic to the bites now than I have been in the past. I don’t miss eating meat too much. After almost 20 years we’ve adapted.

    I just tuned in to the peoples pharmacy and heard about this. I am a poster child for this! Earlier this week I got intense hives, as I had a few weeks earlier. I only had this happen once before @ 3 years ago, but never figured out the trigger.
    These past 2 times I tried to figure out the commonalities, and determined it was the ground beef I had in the form of a hamburger, and meatloaf for lunch. I haven’t had red meat for months, and thought maybe it was some new additive or preservative they were adding to ground meat. Then I heard this show!
    EVERY THING fits! I have had several tick bites , which continue to itch like crazy months after they have healed, and then of course the hives at about 2 hours after having eaten the red meat.
    I live in Raleigh, so the geographical area fits. Thank you for your most timely podcast! Just another reason not to eat red meat, and am happy to learn I may not have to be overly worried about getting Lyme disease due to the antibodies?

    This morning’s program on Alpha-gal allergy blew me away. Just last week, I had an unexplained allergic reaction with a few days’ worth of angioderma (not the throat, thank goodness) and hives.
    The week before, I’d had what I believe to be a tick bite on my foot that itched a lot for several days. I saw the insect and felt the bite but brushed it off before really seeing what it was.
    About a week later, I ate meat loaf (I rarely eat red meat), drank alcohol (bourbon). The next morning, my lips began to swell and I broke out in hives from head to toe. Two days later, my forehead began to swell also.
    I visited an urgent care center, a dermatologist and my primary care physician over three days and ended up on antihistimine and a course of prednisone, with a recommendation to see a food allergist.
    Am making that appointment on Monday, now much better informed thanks to your show. Will keep you posted on outcome. You and Dr. Platts-Mills have made my day.

    I moved to southeast Virginia from northern West Virginia in 1983 to work as a forester. I became exposed to ticks everyday that caused me terrible itching discomfort that lasted for weeks at a time.
    I had a particular bad case of tick bites in May of that first year and nothing I did could ease the pain. That Memorial Day I spent the weekend playing in the ocean at Atlantic Beach. By Monday the bites had ceased itching and began to heal.
    Since then I have learned to apply a salt patch to any tick bites. This seems to have worked well to draw out the poison and after 30 years NO issues with Lyme disease.

    This is me! But it first happened to me when I lived in Missouri. Sometimes I wake up completely covered with hives with no explanation.

    I had some blood in the “bowel evacuation” as my allergist put it. Mine seem to come in waves. Most of the time, if I laid on the bathroom tile floor, it would pass. She, my allergist, was horrified that I had done this. Just didn’t think it was that serious.
    My attacks started usually with a swelling lump in the arch of my feet or foot. If I caught it then with benedryl, I was okay. If it happened while I was sleeping, that was when the attacks were bad. When mine started when I was 17, now 49, it varied. Still with the lump in my foot or palm of my hand by the thumb, but sometimes hands swelled, face swelled, sometimes lips swelled. Always accompanied with heart palpitations, awful cramps with the diarrhea.
    Over the years, I could always recognize when it was coming and take the benedryl, go to sleep and it was over. My last episode was the scariest. That’s what prompted me to go to the allergist, again, to see what this was. I got lucky with the one I went to this time. She knew exactly what it was as soon as I started describing the symptoms.
    It has gotten easier not eating mammal protein, just still kinda stinks. I will say that it has seemed that I am more sensitive to knowing if there is mammal meat in something. I ate a dish with just few small bacon pieces and broke out in hives five hours later. I just avoid it at all costs now.

    Im am currently waiting on my test results. Im 99% sure that I have an allergy to mammalian meat. I have all of the symptoms above and also bloody diarrhea. Does anyone else experience this?

    Lynne – I am a life-long resident of Washington state, have spent a lot of time outdoors (farmer, rancher and former logger) and have been bitten by just about every insect you can think of over the course of 50 years. I do recall some insect bites that swelled horribly, with itching persisting for many days. I used to be able to eat meat, until my early 20’s, then began having SEVERE allergic reactions.
    Have not eaten “mammal meat” (or meat byproducts) since, although fish and shellfish do not seem to bother me at all. I have to wonder if tick/chigger/scabies/other similar bites received in my late teens triggered this allergy? It certainly became apparent soon afterward.

    My husband has a reaction to the flu vaccine his arm sweeps and gets hot for about 4 days and he can hardly lift it. All so we have found out that he does have the alpha gal problem as well he has had it for about 22 years he now has trouble with sugar things he has gluten allergy and has trouble with carbs as well his stomach bloats and hurts he has not had any red meat for years except for venison and now he can not eat that anymore.
    We are from Ct and have not heard of anyone else having this problem we found out that he had this when he went to Yale hospital for heart surgery and when they found this allergy we were told that Heprin has pork and beef in it but he was able to have the surgery they loaded him up with antihistamines and everything went well. So we must be very careful for what meds he does take.
    Thanks for this post we all get very educated by all the people that write in.

    It’s important to specify that alpha-gal is an allergy to all mammmalian meat, not just beef, port and lamb. The allergy also includes mammalian meat products – commonly milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, cream cheese and uncommonly, gelatin, which is a component of many medicines including the flu vaccine.
    My biggest fear with this allergy is the lack of knowledge by care providers that any medication with mammalian meat products should not be used to treat alpha gals. For example, gelatin is used in many medicines as a heat stabilizer. I wonder what other mammalian meat products lurk in our pharmaceuticals.
    I have a severe reaction to the flu vaccine and have had no acknowledgement by any medical practitioner or pharmacist that my symptoms could be related to this allergy. Has anyone else reacted to flu or other vaccines or medication? Should we wear a medic alert and if so what should it say?

    I have been having allergic reactions for 20 years been to many Dr.’s I have been told that it was all in my head. One year ago I found out I had to have open heart surgery. I told the surgeon about my allergies and he had me go to a specialist at Yale New Haven hospital. The allergist was very interested and asked if he could send some blood to Dr. Platts-Mill.
    Low and behold I was diagnosed with alph-glocose . They were going to cancel my surgery because HEPRIN is made from Pigs or Beef. But now my surgery had to be done they put me on steroids before and through the surgery and survived. I grew up on a dairy farm in Ct. And have had these reactions and almost died 3 times. And have been told by the Best Doctors that it was all in my head. All I can say is be careful what meds you take. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and get answers.

    I’ve had this kind of reaction to red meat since I was a teenager. There have been lots of tick bites over the years (literally hundreds when I worked as a stable hand), but I believe I’m too far north for the ticks to be Lone Star ticks, because I live in Canada,… unless they were introduced with the White-tailed deer?

    I am 50 years old and I have recently been diagnosed with a beef allergy. I had indeed been bitten by 20 or so ticks, 2 Lone star or what we call Dog Ticks and the others Seed Ticks, several weeks prior while clearing some land. I was only told that I tested postive for beef and milk. Soon after (giving up all Beef and Milk) I had another severe reaction this time to Pork Sausage, in the middle of the night just like the first time, hands and feet burning and itching, hives over most of my body and shallow breathing.
    The Epi-Pen perscribed to me by hte ER Doc saved my life. I wish that local PA’s and Nursing staff were more aware of this disorder and would have told me it would include all Mammal meat. I still have many questions…..If someone could point me in the direction of someone with expertise, Or put them in contact with me, regarding this disorder I would be greatly appreciative!
    You can listen to the world’s expert (Thomas Platts-Mills, MD) on our radio show. Just search for alpha-Gal allergy in the search box or search for Platts-Mills at

    I had several reactions in the past year. I live in TN and have been bitten by chiggers or possibly seed ticks hundreds of times. One year I counted 200 bites on one foot. I blamed the reactions on onion because I had onion on a ground beef burrito and steak sandwiches. I also had a reaction from eating JuJuBes, due to the gel, which is made from mammals.
    The first time, I had no idea what was happening. I fell out and my dog barked at me and woke my wife. I drank a bottle of children’s benadryl and waited it out. I knew it was an allergic reaction when I hit the floor. I couldn’t move. In the last three weeks, I went to the E.R. twice. Once from steak sandwich and once from pork ribs. Went to allergist yesterday. Had tests done. Positive for beef and pork allergy but not onion. Had to use an epipen once. Glad I had it.
    I used to be a vegetarian. It looks like I’ll be one again. Like the rest said, it happened at 12:30 a.m. each time. I live 25 minutes from the hospital, so the ride was scary. I was covered in hives within minutes. Only swelled one time. Now I’m afraid to eat jelly beans, red meat and chicken too. I read that if you avoid the bites the reactions goes away. I’m moving out of the south and don’t plan on going camping any time soon. Leroy

    I was very interested to read your post, because this so sounds like the episodes that I experience. It took a while for my allergist to pinpoint mine because I don’t have hives, but I flush…. turn blood red all over; even the whites of my eyes will be bloodshot red. He said that while flushing could indicate an allergy, it wasn’t a typical response.
    I too, have the “beating drums” in my head, my heart gets all crazy, and I just feel and overall sense of being out of control. When it first happened, I thought I was having a stroke because my head felt so weird. It will also feel hot like it is going to burn up. Every time it starts happening, I make a bee-line for the bathroom, as well, and get down on the cold tile floor. It is like an impulse. The last episode that I had, since I knew what was going on, I got to the benadryl and chewed up about 4 and it seemed to counteract it pretty fast. I didn’t end up having to use my epipen.
    Also, like you, I know once I get to the point of a bowel movement (which is always rather bad, that things will start to slow down. For example, once I get it out, I feel my heart slow down, my head slowly start slowing down, and the heat to start leaving my body. Reading about your reaction just struck a chord with me because it sounds so much like what I do! It is like, if I can get on that cold tile, and keep cool with cold rags and get my benadryl rather quick, I can semi get things under control until the bowel movement or vomiting.

    I have found that I must carry a copy of the study with me to every Dr. I visit. My primary dr. still doesn’t think much about it and hasn’t even read it. My gynecologist in Thomasville, N.C. was very interested and I found an allergy dr. in High Point, N.C. that is familiar with Dr. Platts-Mills and called the local lab (which contacted the lab that performs the test) and I was tested the same day they performed the stick tests.
    I am not allergic to meats and highly allergic to cats and dogs according to the stick tests but I am positive for alpha gal and I normally don’t have problems with cats and dogs. I carry epipen now but had lived on several benadryl doses every day for more than 4 years and had a total of about 30 episodes and lived on the bathroom floor (kept benadryl in bottom drawer), on my right side to allow heart room to beat, downing childrens benadryl and mylanta, staying cold as possible and structured short breaths.
    Usually once I could throw up and the bowels emptied I could feel my heart rate slow and the beating drums in my head slowed and I could go to bed with my hives. Carry a copy of the study with you at all times and the results of your test.

    Hello. I have always been reactive to lard, in fact, as much as I am to red meat. Also react to gelatins, additives, dairy. I read labels constantly and have learned that the names of chemical additives in processed foods, medicines, and skin care products bear no resemblance to anything we recognize as coming from a mammal.

    HI, just from my experience: I have had the alpha gal allergy for 11 or so years. First, just all red meat. Then, 2 years ago, after numerous tick bites, severe anaphylaxis and milder reactions to ANYTHING from mammals, including dairy. And milk chocolate contains dairy for sure; some semi-sweet or darker chocolates also contain some milk.
    While the UVA researchers and others emphasis the delayed aspect of the reaction in alpha gal allergic people, this isn’t always the case. My most severe reaction occurred within 30 minutes; other reactions, within 20 minutes. The only way for you to know what you are dealing with is to have your allergist test you for the alpha gal antibody, and for dairy and meat (blood tests, NOT skin tests). Good luck to you!

    I recently wrote about alpha-gal for CNN:
    Please contact me with any questions.
    Olivia Smith

    I had my first episode in 2005. My daughter is an RN and advised I take the following meds. 2 benydryl 25 mg, 1 ranitidine 75 mg (xantac) and 1 loratadine 10 mg (claritin). If I take the combo within the first few minutes of symptoms, the hives cease to itch within 30 minutes. As of today, I now have a name for what I have. Thanks greatly.

    I have had the above mentioned symptoms now for about a year and a half. I figured out is was an allergy to mammal meat quite some time ago and have avoided red meat dutifully since. To my surprise, last week I had a whey protein shake and had a severe reaction. So that’s out too despite that I have been having protein shakes all along with no effects until last week.
    Just this week I found sites like this one and the whole thing makes sense to me. I am a geologist and work extensively in Central America and yes, I get bitten by ticks and chiggers often. Conclusion: the ticks that trigger the immune response are not confined to the southern US. They must be in Central America as well. Any thoughts out there?

    I saw a PBS show talking about Lyme disease. I recall a woman who had Lyme disease and nursed her baby and the baby ended up as a carrier of the disease but wasn’t showing symptoms. So what ever antibodies from the tick that caused this allergy to meat, it makes sense that they could have passed in the mothers milk.
    If there is an alpha gal allergy test available in her area, I’d suggest mom get tested. It would be a good idea, even if she’s a vegetarian, as others can attest to. Since there hasn’t been perhaps confirmed studies about breast milk and allergies, so I was told 12 years ago, when I breastfed my baby, who developed a peanut allergy; I was told to remove peanuts from my diet. I was on a peanut butter and fluff kick back then, eating sometimes two sandwiches a day. Before I discovered the peanut allergy, at 5 months of age, I took my baby for a photo shoot in a tub scene. When the shirt came off, hives covered the torso. Why? At 10 months, walking & got a nibble of siblings PB & J sandwich, nothing apparent so I offered a tiny nibble in the highchair, it may have been on a different day. Then the allergy became apparent.
    This was my 2nd child which I nursed for 20 months. At age 4yrs. tested 4+ for peanut allergy and various levels for other nuts( higher for ones he had eaten more of). At age 11 yrs., was retested and the peanut allergy is gone, only 3 nut allergies remain @ a level of 2+.
    If you go to, type in Lyme disease, then “Under Our Skin-A Look at Lyme Disease” article, you’ll find highlighted in orange – “Under Our Skin”, click it and you will be able to find out about the movie I saw. You can get a list of when it airs on TV in your area and you can see clips of it on YouTube, etc. Hope this helps. I want to learn more about this tick induced meat allergy. I came across this while looking for something else.

    Hello, I just found this conversation thread. I have the alpha gal allergy, have had it for 11 years, and just like others here, doctors didn’t believe me. Two years ago with a bunch of tick bites, my allergy became very severe, and now I can’t have any dairy, any cross-contamination, period.
    You may have had a reaction to the chocolate because of the dairy in it, which does contain alpha gal. Was it milk chocolate? I LOVE my chocolate and now only eat dark chocolate that has absolutely no dairy in it. Just a thought. Good luck.
    Also — even food items you might not consider to be mammal — such as marshmallows and certain candies (because of gelatin) or additives to bread that have chemical names without specific reference to their source (meat or dairy) can cause reactions in some people.

    Where can I get help with red meat allergy? When I have eaten steak etc. about a half hour later, get pain in right side. hour later, nauseous. 6hours later, feel prickly allover. 8 hours, hives allover body followed with headache, bloating, vomiting, bloating, constipated, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, cramps, blurred vision, numbness and tingling allover body, pains allover body, difficulty moving hands, arms, legs… my doctor says they don’t read things off the internet and suggested I need psychiatric help, allergy to meat is stupid, never heard of, yadah yadah.
    I need help, I just ate rice with tomato and onion fried in butter. 3 hours ago. Face, numb and tingling, nose plugged up, difficulty breathing, legs are hard to move, feet and hands swelling, redness and swelling, kidneys hurt, craving sugar, allover n itching. I’m not nuts. Numerous tests I’m told, showed elevated crp and white cell? Need help. I attract ticks and chiggers, etc., bugs like crazy. I’m not crazy. red bull n benadryl n ibuprofen together helps. I live in Pueblo Colorado, do you know of someone here who will listen to me? I do have pictures. Need to go take more benadryl n something to try n get sleep, thank you,

    I had new symptoms show up unexpectedly and have found that they are naming this now. I ate a dish with Bacon in it twice. Very small amount of bacon in those dishes too. I would not have reactions, but I started having problems swallowing chicken. It literally felt like someone would take a hand as the bite of chicken was going down and grab it and squeeze. Very painful and nothing would come up or down. I didn’t associate it with the Alpha-Gal at all.
    I had to leave work one day after having this happening again with a bite of a Chicken breakfast burrito from Chik fi la. My husband finally talked me into taking a epi shot. Long story short, my symptoms were immediately relieved. Still took a while for the bite of chicken to go down, but it finally did without it being too painful. It wasn’t until then that I knew there was an association to the meat allergy. I am VIGILANT about what is in the dishes I eat now and have absolutely no swallowing problems now. I really thought this was just a body “quirk” for years. Even asked my allergist about it and she didn’t really know if it could be related. This is still all really new and I’m figuring out things as I go. I always have a epi shot, always have benedryl and I always find out EXACTLY what is in a dish.

    Hello! I have just been diagnosed with the alpha-gal allergy after having 5 episodes in the past year. My husband and I could only tell the doctor that it seemed to have happened after we had been out to eat and all of these times I had consumed steak or some type of red meat. Several hours after the fact, I would also begin having stomach cramps, feel nauseated, and get sort of tingly in my hands, face and ears.
    By the time I could make it to the restroom, I would be bright RED. I never had hives, but would be so red that even the whites of my eyes would be red. I would feel like I was on fire from the inside out. By this time, I would grow very faint and end up in the floor fighting to stay conscious. I still don’t know yet how I have kept from passing out. By the end of the episode I would have extremely bad diarrhea. Once this happened, I could feel my heart start to slow down, but I would gradually get chills to the point of my teeth chattering.
    During all this my husband would give me benadryl to try to slow it down. On a pretty regular basis, I get itchy hands and feet at night, but never itch with one of the episodes. I can relate to your post, with the turning red thing. I would like to hear more from you about your experience.
    My allergist dismissed my theory of a food allergy because he said that the “flushing” wasn’t typically a sign of food allergy and had me scared to death that I had something much worse. It wasn’t until my alph-gal test came back positive that he said that this could definitely be what is causing my episodes. I would love to hear more about your experience with this.

    15 years ago I started having hives, stomach pains throwing up and throat closing up. It took me five years to find out what was causing this problem. It was red meat Any meat that has a hoof on it I cannot eat. I have been in the emergency room numerous times for shots.
    I have recently heard from a friend that she say your show and that there could be a solution to my problem. It’s called Cold Laser Therapy. It would be the answer to my prayers to be able to eat meat again. And yes I have been bitten many times by ticks. I live in the Mid-Atlantic where ticks are an every day fight to keep them off of ones self. I would appreciate any information you could give me concerning a Doctor that could help me be able to eat meat again.
    Thank you
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: If your discomfort is caused by alpha-gal allergy, any mammalian meat would cause the problem, at least some of the time. (That is one of the frustrations of this condition: it doesn’t show up each and every time, which makes it harder to diagnose. The delay between eating the meat and experiencing the symptoms, which can be life-threatening, is another difficulty.)
    Here is a publication for you and your doctor to review about alpha-gal allergy:
    We are not aware of cold laser therapy being used for this and it was not mentioned by our guests. What seems to work is complete avoidance for a period of years.

    I have this Alpha Gal allergy and have had it since I was in my late teens. I just never knew what it was until a year and a half ago. The weird thing is that my sister started this a week after I did and her symptoms were much more worse than mine at times. She was diagnosed at one point to being allergic to beef, but she thought it was such bull, she didn’t stop eating it. She lived on a dairy farm and beef was their fav thing. I just never put the tick connection until researching it. I had a very bad episode and literally thought I was gonna die. Extreme bowl distress, hives, racing heart and trouble breathing. It was then that I decided it was time to go to an allergist. After talking to her for 5 minutes, she said she knew exactly what it was. Tested for Alpha Gal and found out I was 4 out of 6 scale. That last bad episode I had, two weeks before, I had both ankles covered with chiggers. It’s been a year and a half and I find that I’m more “sensitive” than ever to beef and pork. Bacon being a weakness of mine. It’s getting easier and I’m dealing with it.

    Avoid anything with Fur — seems to be the rule to follow for me.

    Another great bit of info I wish I had run across several years ago. I awoke around midnight in late May 2009 with horrific stomach pain. By the time I got up and got into the restroom I could feel my heart racing extremely fast. I turned on the light, and was horrified to see that I was bright red. My arms and chest went numb, and I felt as though I couldn’t get any air in. My wife called 911 assuming I was having a heart attack; by the time they got there 10 minutes later I was barely conscious with a BP of 70/40.
    I did this about seven times for six months until I ran across an article on an allergy board. Food allergies had been dismissed over and over again to this point. I then had myself tested and finally had a diagnosis.
    I travel extensively and it can be tough. I’ve learned to speak up, and avoid anything grilled for the most part. Unfortunately, if my immune system is weak (bad cold, flu, etc.) I also react to dairy. Normally I have milk, cream, etc. with no problem but not when I am already sick. I went 11 months with no issues, then got nailed just the other day after having a protein shake (whey protein has bovine serum in it, a mammalian meat derivative). So you just never know. I usually take Zyrtec and Accolate (Zafirlukast) daily, which may reduce my symptoms to just elevated BP, red face, with no breathing or circulatory issues. And I always carry epi pens.

    My Husband has had this problem for about 17 years. He grew up on a dairy farm here in CT where we still live. He was told by a Dr at UCONN health center that it was all in his head. That was about 12 years ago.
    I told her off and we continued to look for answers. Well this past June he needed open heart surgery. Because of his allergies the surgeon sent him to Dr. Askanas allergy specalist at Yale. He listened to us and told us about Dr .Platts-Mills. He sent him some of my husband s blood and sure enough he had alpha-gal allergy.
    Then the concern was that heparin is made from pork or beef, Boy were we in trouble. They were able to load him up on steriods and the surgery was a success.
    It was so good to find out there is a name for what he has. He is able to eat deer meat with no trouble but that is the only red meat he can eat. He eats all seafood with no problems. Also anything that is made with anything from pork or beef he can not tolerate which would includes lard.

    WE have lived in NC for 44 years, most of that time in Durham. In approx 1980 I developed an allergy to red meat, although no one at Duke, or the Chapel Hill allergist I saw had ever seen anything like my symptoms. I was able to self-diagnose–at first only beef, but quickly found that pork and lamb were also problematic. Usually symptoms started during the night, with intense itching in the wrists and ears. This quickly spread to all-over hives, nausea, vomiting, violent headaches, and lasted for at least 24 hours. Once when we had eaten out it began almost immediately, and I also lost my sight for a short while. Ended up in the ER at Durham regional, where my Duke family physician met us and administered Rx benadryl to hopefully keep airways open. That was my last time eating red meat, but I soon found that the problem had extended to lard–at that time (c. 1980) a common ingredient in many processed foods. Fortunately, because of the cholesterol issue, this became less of a problem here in this country, but is still a major problem when we go to Europe. In fact, my last episode was in 2009 in the UK with eating potato skins in a restaurant there. There has been no tapering off from this allergy for me. Has lard been an issue with other sufferers?

    I developed an allergy to pork, beef and most other hooved animals (haven’t tried them all) in the mid 1990’s. I was a vegetarian off and on during that time and had not been eating red meat very regularly for a year or two.
    I have noticed that the symptoms (hives, itching, general feeling of discomfort) are fairly easily treatable with benadryl or claritin. I have also been able to increase my tolerance of red meat by eating increasing amounts of it over a long period of time. About 3 years ago I would react from as little as 1 piece of bacon. At the present time I can eat a slice or two of ham on a sandwich with little or no effect.
    My ultimate goal is to be able to once again eat a full plate of North Carolina Barbecue without having to pop any allergy medications.

    I live in western Massachusetts and about 10 years ago, I found a lone star tick (engorged) attached to my leg after spending time in Holyoke, MA in the woods. It was hypothesized that it may have dropped off a dog as the area was near I-95. Our highways easily spread all kinds of things. Fortunately, I’m a vegetarian. The tick was identified by a tick expert at a university with a particular interest in lone star ticks.

    You can be allergic to dairy and red meat so maybe it was the milk in the chocolate. I experienced the severe red meat allergy in March 2008 after being bitten by two ticks that month in Sydney Australia. I am less allergic but still reactive to dairy. My allergy doctor is fantastic and is researching this area – journo girl

    Very interesting about the kombucha. I have the allergy too… I am very interested in your brave experiments with meat after kombucha. Please let the world, or at least me, know if you’re onto something. I’m sure there is a way to side-step the allergy. I don’t mind not eating meat personally, it’s getting hives from cross-contamination at restaurants that’s been my biggest problem. And sometimes cheese gets me too, I think. If you’re onto something I’d love to hear about it!

    after hearing this show, i’ve been reading other info on the web. one newspaper article stated that a patient had been told if he is not exposed to the allergen again, the allergy can go away.
    i don’t remember this point being addressed on the show. is it true that the allergy can subside over time?
    many thanks for a fine, informative show.

    This is so funny, I was away and was staying at a hotel. I started having hives and assumed it was from their detergent. It got worse when I got home in my own sheets. I had several trips to the ER and lived on steroids until I had gotten diagnosed with the beef allergy. Lamb, pork and deer was added to my list of foods to avoid.
    I find it strange that the Dr’s in my area don’t have a clue. The last trip to the ER it took them 2 hours to treat me because they did not believe I reacted 8 hours later. They even asked me if I had done this on purpose!
    I just got tested and now I wait. I know it’s not going to change anything but at least I’ll know. I’m wondering if the shots for cat allergies are hurting me because that is also new with all of this.

    I’ve had these same symptoms for 7 years now. My Dr.s in Delaware didn’t have a clue. I had to demand to get tested and then find out on my own where to go. Now I wait to find out. I work with 2 other people that have the same thing. I just wonder about the allergy shots for cats that I am getting. I am very allergic to them. I break out in hives, so are the shots not doing anything? I just think it’s part of this alpha-gal allergy and not a real allergy to the dander.

    I know too well the symptoms described, first is intense abdominal pain, followed by diarrhea and/or vomiting. By the time this is happening my ears are burning hot, and all of my bodies orifices begin to itch. Then I am covered in welts and my eyes and face swell up. This almost always occurs in the middle of the night, or sometimes when I wake up. I was diagnosed about 12 years ago by Dr. Platt-Mills. Now my youngest son also is presenting the allergy. We have ticks every Spring and Summer where we live.
    I also have learned Epi-Pen works fast, but you can suck on a Benadryl tablet or two under your tongue and that helps in about 45 minutes. The reaction sucks, and is surely a day lost when it happens. I have been to the ER one time it was so severe.
    My diet also excludes shellfish, also determined through an allergy test. It is annoying that people dismiss this as nonsense and even sometimes suggest it is “in my head”. When the subject comes up, I tell my friends I follow a Kosher/Halal diet for “Spiritual Reasons” and it gives some levity to the situation.
    Completely eliminating the “mammal meat” and shellfish for me has prevented a reaction since. I have not stopped consuming dairy products with no concerns. Neither can my son have even tiny bit of that without developing hives though. There is something else I have learned the uncomfortable way: sometimes even fried chicken is cooked in lard or bacon grease, along with lots of other foods in Southern style menus.

    it took years of health problems and 2 near-death experiences before my husband was diagnosed (recently) at UNC. I don’t blame the doctors. For quite a while they simply didn’t know what they were dealing with. Please continue to get the word out. This kind of informed publicity saves lives.

    I have a question about anaphylaxis. When I eat beef or pork lately (the last 5 years or so) within about 2-3 hours usually, I get really intense unrelenting cramping abdominal pain for a number of hours. No hives or itching, or the other listed symptoms, just the belly pain. Does this count as an anaphylactic reaction?
    It started with beef, which I’ve not had any trouble whatsoever giving up, but now has extended to pork, which I do like. Obviously I will be giving that up also, but is this something which I need to discuss with my doctor, or will just not eating those meats do? Should I see about getting an epi-pen? Thanks for the info, and, yes, I live in SW Va, and have been bitten by ticks, including the “itchy” variety. Sally
    People’s Pharmacy response: Please do discuss this with your doctor. You haven’t needed an Epi-Pen yet, but we can’t say you won’t in the future.

    Finally got this diagnosis in August with the UNC Allergy Clinic. Thanks Dr. Jerath and Dr. Cherazi!!! I had been a puzzle for the last 9 years to my former allergist.
    I’m willing to give up the mammal meat but finding the “hidden” meat connections have been very difficult and I don’t trust any restaurant although my daughter is a waitress at a restaurant in Durham and she said that if they know of an allergy, they will check everything they have for the customer.
    I have 3 questions: 1) what ingredients could be listed on a food label that I might not recognize as meat related, 2) if I give blood, will I pass along this antibody and 3) is there anything in the flu shot that’s going to send me back to UNC Hosp?
    On my last trip there in August the attending in the ER had never heard of this and kept wanting to treat me for a panic attack. I need a stamp for my forehead! Next time I’ll tell him to Google it just like I did – if I haven’t passed out!

    Thanks for the program segment; S O O glad I heard it that day. With your attention to the allergy, perhaps folks won’t look so doubtful … you have what?? meat allergy??
    Ditto to all symptoms (many 3:00 AM) mentioned above, except nausea. First occurrence in 1997… 4 ER trips (one a 911 call) plus numerous others Benadryl treated … kept a “diary” and thought it was meat related (preservative?) until diagnosed by Duke allergist in April 2011… about equally allergic to beef, pork, & lamb.
    I live in a wooded area in Henderson, NC and have had numerous tick bites; have A pos blood type.
    Two questions – (1) Is well-done meat less likely to cause allergy? (2) Does the amount make a difference (1 bite vs. whole burger)?
    I have tolerated Brunswick stew which has beef, pork, and chicken along with many vegetables.
    People’s Pharmacy response: According to the experts on our show, the reactions may vary from one exposure to the next. But because anaphylaxis is always a potential risk, it doesn’t make sense to take the chance.

    Yes, I first experienced this about 22 years ago and connected the dots over several years by monitoring my own food consumption. I was pooh-poohed by the allergists for the first decade or more until this reseach came to light (physicians: stop ignoring the obvious evidence in favor of the “lack of peer-reviewed research”).
    More recently, the testing has been developed and I’m positive for beef, lamb and pork, though have also reacted after eating grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free bison, as well as venison.
    I’m lucky and can occasionally “chip” on these meats, and sometimes end up chasing it successfully with Benadryl if I start to react. It’s a game of Russian roulette, I admit, and I can’t recommend it to anyone else.

    I learned to take 4 benadryl when my palms and/or ears began to itch like crazy (usually that is the first sign for me). If the reaction still progressed to widespread hives, I learned to go to an emergency room and just sit in the parking lot or the waiting room without checking in to see if facial swelling and breathing difficulty would begin.
    Usually the benadryl kicked in, and I could just go back home. If breathing did become involved, I went to the desk and they whisked me back and started an IV. Claritin doesn’t work as well for me.
    My first few reactions were just hives (began 9 years ago), but I have had anaphylaxis quite a few times. It took me a long time to figure out the cause, but, I haven’t had a serious reaction in 4 years because I figured out the connection and learned to avoid even traces of red meat. Once just smelling bacon cooking up close set it off, but Benadryl quickly solved the problem.

    Thank you for the very informative show! I have had this problem for 6 years.
    It’s such a relief to find the cause.
    Over the years, I’ve developed a few strategies for avoiding anaphylaxis. Of
    course, I don’t knowingly eat meat at restaurants, but if I suspect that the
    chicken is cooked on the same grill as the burgers, I take a Claritin
    antihistamine with my meal. It doesn’t knock me out like Benadryl does. Other
    sources of hidden beef or pork are soups and gravy.
    When I really want a burger, I make a turkey burger with Pam Anderson’s recipe from
    her CookSmart cookbook. It uses ricotta cheese for moisture and Worcestershire sauce and dijon mustard for flavor. Comes really close to a beef burger!

    In 2009 a doctor finally helped me figure out I was allergic to red meat; basically she had me stop eating certain foods to see if my symptoms stopped. The reaction happened so long after I ate the meat that it took me a while to put the 2 together. I thought the doctor was crazy and didn’t believe it until I actually stopped eating red meat.
    I feel fortunate to have caught this broadcast. I traveled to Tennessee back in 2005 and was bitten by a tick; I can’t remember if it was a lonestar or not but it had been attached for a while before I found it in a dimple on the back of my knee. I didn’t have these allergic reactions until late 2005 or early 2006.
    Long story short, I’ve made an appointment with my allergy doctor to see if I have an actual Alpha-Gal allergy, it’d be nice to put a name on it if this is what it is.

    I’ve had this allergy since 1993. Before that I had been a vegan for five or six years, then ate hamburger pizza in July 1993 and a Burger King hamburger in August 1993 and had horrible reactions both times, several hours later–big hives, racing heart, anxiety and jitters.
    Still, I left vegetarianism behind and started eating meats again, rapidly learning by subsequent hives reactions that I could not eat beef, pork and lamb but could eat chicken, fish, turkey. I could eat yogurt and cheeses, but I once got hives eating very fresh farmer’s feta cheese. Most hives reactions occur when I’m away from home eating foods others have prepared. Beef broth hidden in vegetable soup, that sort of thing.
    So far I’ve managed all the hives episodes over the years with Benadryl. I have carried Benadryl in my purse for the last 18 years. I had moved to a wilderness in central North Carolina in 1987, where I have lived ever since. The tick problem has always been horrendous and I have had hundreds, if not thousands, of tick bites these past 24 years, many of them quite itchy. I’ve had “pods” of 2000 seed ticks hop on me at once and have learned how to get them off of me before they attach (packaging tape).
    A couple of years ago a doctor talked to me about the importance of eating red meat (the Weston Price diet) and suggested I could try to de-sensitize myself to red meat by eating a very small amounts of it and gradually increasing the portion size. I did this and, to my amazement, I did not have an allergic reaction and in short order was eating normal-sized portions of grass-fed, natural beef and buffalo a couple of times a week. That honeymoon last for six months. Then, WHAM-O, after eating buffalo meat one night I had the worst hives reaction in recent memory.
    Tried again, this time with beef, and WHAM-O again. So I’m back to chicken and fish. I’m glad to know of the tick connection to my meat allergy. I’ve gotten good over the years at nabbing ticks off of me with packaging tape before they attach and navigating my land to avoid ticks. However, a few days ago I stopped my car along a roadside a few miles from home and stepped out and got seed ticks all over me. Two dozen or so were attached to me by the time I could get home and get them off. Now I’ve got lots of little itchies.
    Should I be concerned about tick bites ever causing me to have an anaphylactic reaction?

    I called my family doc to asked her to order the blood text. Even told her the name of the lab that does it. (The fact that I have this allergy is in my records.) Her nurse called me back to say that “Dr. L has never heard of this and suggests you go to an allergist.”
    So instead of Dr. L. using this opportunity to actually LEARN something she doesn’t know, I have to spend $50 to go to a specialist who will probably want to do all the skin tests that aren’t sensitive enough to pick it up?
    Still going crazy after all these years!

    Amazing coincidence, this show.
    Me: 60 y/o WM, no health problems or previous history of troublesome allergies.
    One week before the show, I was doing yard work on the woodsy border of my property where I’ve received tick bites over the years. I have prolonged itchiness and lingering bite reactions to our Carolina ticks and chiggers.
    That evening, I enjoyed a burger at one of our Ninth St pubs, around 7:30PM.
    Watched a movie with S.O. then retired, around 12:30 PM
    After lights out, became aware of acute itching around belt-line area of body, which rapidly became generalized over legs, arms, flanks.
    Became aware of hive-like bumps on body and got up to investigate in the bathroom.
    Was horrified to discover hives (flesh colored, not red) growing to a size of 2-3cm, coalescing over shoulders, waist and groin.
    I have never itched so much in my life. Don’t remember trouble breathing.
    From start of symptoms to peak was about an hour. After that, signs and symptoms subsided. I took no meds for this.
    After the show, the presumptive Dx is alpha-gal? I think so.
    I’ll avoid mammal meat after a day in the field, for sure.
    Thank you very much for bringing this to light. I hope the doc who writes those health articles in The New Yorker writes about this.

    I have had 3 reactions to pork or beef over the past 2 years with symptoms exactly as described on your show. However, after the stomach cramps the itching and hives usually start within 30 minutes. Consequently I knew I was allergic to pork and beef but just didn’t know what the cause was. Ticks are a problem where I live (Oxford, NC) and I receive numerous tick bites every year.
    Nice to finally understand this allergy. Thanks for a great show.

    I had my first reaction in 1995. My indicators start with itchy palms, then full blown hives, swelling face/throat and extreme stomach pains. At worst, it’s all those symptoms plus diarrhea and throwing up, all simultaneously. I’ve been in the ER four times. In 1996, Dr. Peter Bressler in Durham NC noticed that the common thread was red meat and the blood test that he ran came back highly positive. Even for awhile after that I’d eat a piece or two of bacon and be okay, but eventually that was causing hives which was a milder reaction than eating a burger. No red meat for me. The upside is I’ve been more creative in my cooking and can simulate red meat flavors.
    I’d be very interested in participating in future studies.
    Thanks for your show. I know it’s terrible of me to be excited but I was when I heard your promo of red meat allergies.
    OH, I do remember several tick bites that gave me more grief than usual. They itched forEVER. I could totally relate to the guy who had them removed.

    Also remember that gelatin is made from hoofs, and that this allergy includes ALL land mammals. Gelatin is hidden in medicines (not just gel tabs), yogurt, dips, marshmallows… I have alpha-gal allergy and must avoid all of the above, unfortunately!

    I like hamburgers too, but I don’t eat beef. You can make a good veggie burger out of a blend of brown rice, wild rice, and pinto or black beans. Experiment until you get the ingredients just the way you like them. Recipes are online.
    Blend well, add a little rice wine vinegar and spices you like, top with lettuce, tomato and onions and you will have a satisfying burger.
    Or you can find an organic farmer who processes at the farm chickens or turkey and you can make a burger out of ground chicken or turkey.
    Organic chicken feed is expensive and raises the price of poultry but worth it to avoid chemicals and brutal treatment of the chickens in slaughterhouses.

    My 16 yr old daughter was diagnosed with Alpha-gal allergy several months ago after several trips to the ER. Thanks to Dr for research! She has all the symptoms- late night reactions, tick bites that itch, swell very large and remain a large hard knot for weeks, and hives. We live on a farm and raise our own beef and lamb. They do not receive hormones and are processed without preservatives, etc.
    Rachael handles the sheep and cows daily, shears and pulls lambs. She has plans to become a large animal vet and has worked with university vet in various procedures without any problems. Avoiding mammal meat is just a way of life for her now. We do well at home, but have found that when out with groups (4-H, etc) she often has to do without (hamburger cook out for example). But her friends are understanding as they have seen her have a reaction and don’t want to see that again.

    During the past year my husband also started breaking out in severe hives during the night and trouble breathing. It took us quite a while to figure out it was the beef that he was reacting too since he is 47 and never had a problem in the past. His doctor basically stated that some people become allergic to beef as they get older. He was in denial for quite a while.
    However just came across an article last week regarding the tick bite allergy which now makes sense since he was bitten last summer & this summer. Thank you for this article as we truly believe that is the reason for his allergic reactions. We are located in the Raleigh NC area.

    My wife and I both had this type of reaction to beef several years ago. My wife’s reaction was much more severe than mine. We had been eating only chicken (that we raised ourself) and fish. When we bought some all grass fed beef we both had this type of reaction.
    We currently raise chickens and ducks for meat, and were considering starting to raise rabbits also. Does anyone have any idea if rabbit meat would elicit the same type of reaction as beef?
    Better avoid rabbit Bill. Our guest warned about this. Take a moment and download the MP3 file and listen to the show from beginning to end.

    Some meat allergies that are more immediate might be caused by mold, especially if the meat is more than 24 hours old. In terms of weird allergies I wish someone would research more about semen allergies. It is estimated to effect between 2-10 percent of females and I am one of them. It’s not a huge issue in my life since I am not trying to get pregnant but it will be down the line. I am sick of doctors looking at me like I am insane or just telling me to use condoms, they do not understand it is as scary as any allergy and emotionally painful to know I will never have a “normal” marriage and baby makin’ life.

    Hi Sarah, our current research at UVA indicates that if you avoid tick bites and meat, over time your antibody titer to alpha-gal should go down. We are optimistic that this will correlate with a reduction in clinical symptoms, but until we’ve had more time to study it, we can only really recommend avoidance. You can check out our mammalian meat allergy blog at for more information about this allergy. I hope that helps!

    I have had three serious incidents including an ambulance to the ER for anaphylaxis 6 hours after eating meat. One incident in Italy after eating rabbit. The other two times were out of state. My allergist advised me to carry an epipen and stop using aspirin. All three times I took two benadryl and that eventually quieted down the swelling (the ambulance trip was when I didn’t get the benadryl down until just before I fainted in the drug store cause I was so swollen up and shaky I couldn’t get the package open!).
    I have been afraid to travel out of my home area not knowing why this was happening and the only time I did I took a daily antihistamine as a precaution. This may be the answer, and I so appreciate this show, now I can follow up with information in hand to check it out.

    I currently live in East Tennessee and received a number of tick bites this summer. I grew up in Kentucky so ticks bites are common. What was unusual is that at least one of the ticks was a Lone Star tick which I did not recall being bitten by previously. I recall this summer’s tick bites, in general, itching more than usual and the sores lasting longer before healing. I am a vegetarian, and so did not develop the hives that you’ve discussed from red meat.
    However, some weeks following the tick bites, I developed hives and a somewhat elevated heart rate immediately after eating chocolate (not 4 hrs later) on 2 separate occasions but the same week. This was unusual since I haven’t developed hives from a food allergy for more than 30 years. Is there any medical evidence to alpha-gal reacting in the body with other foods besides red meat?

    Dr. Jim T… you are way off base Doc… Alpha Gal allergy is a real problem and has nearly taken my life on a number of occasions. I’ve suffered for nearly 20 years. Those UVA boys saved my life.

    I have an itching & hives condition for the past 4 months. I have seen an allergy, immunology dr (dr “D”) who ordered some labs, later indicating I have “increased thyroid antibodies”. My primary dr (dr “C” ) increased my thyroid from 100 to 112 and will ck levels in 3 mos. My allergist. (dr D). she rx’d Allegra am & Zyrtec pm along with a zantac pill with the both. Additional benadryl during the day as needed.
    I am not as functional, as I had been earlier prior to the meds, but the itching is in control. However there are a few evenings a week I wake up with welts on my neck & trunk area in geometric formed patches and blotches… perhaps it may have been the meat consumed earlier? (We do a lot of outdoor activities, so I could be a candidate of a tick bite).
    I was amazed that I could break out like this, while on all these antihistamines. I believe I need to request this “alpha-gal” lab test. That is what it is called, right? what’s your opinion? “uncomfortable in tampa”

    When I heard this I was so excited. My son began having these exact episodes 7 or 8 years ago and although we have discussed it with a few physicians no one has been able to explain it. He wakes up in the middle of the night with horrible stomach cramps, breaks out in hives and has itching, sometimes wheezing and most times explosive diarrhea. We figured it must be associated with some type of food allergy but had not been able to pinpoint anything specific. Meat didn’t even occur to us. Thank you so much.

    We live in the Triad area of N.C. A few years ago our daughter had a tick bite and became very ill about 6 days later. She was diagnosed with Rocky Mtn Spotted Fever. She has since moved to Upstate NY and has again had a run in with ticks as well as Lyme’s Disease. A few months ago she had a violent reaction after eating a steak. She went to the emergency room but no one had a clue as to what the cause or diagnosis could be. This certainly sheds some light on the subject. Thank you for such a great program.

    My allergist detected mild beef and pork reactions probably 6 years ago and ended up diagnosing “anaphylactic shock, cause unknown.” Since I live in rural Arkansas, have had many tick bites, and have had severe reactions several hours after eating pork, it looks like I now have a name for why I carry benadryl and an Epi-pen everywhere I go.
    I have a question. My 35-year-old daughter (who has been a vegetarian since the age of 19 and has had tick bites in Arkansas) has never had hives or anaphylactic shock — but, of course, she hasn’t eaten meat for 16 years. Her breastfed, non-vegetarian 19-month-old has had two episodes of hives now, and the last one was several hours after eating some ham. Can a child who has never had a tick bite and lives in Europe develop Alpha-gal allergy prenatally or from breast milk??

    Alpha-Gal, I guess I’ve had what you describe for some 10-15 yrs. Live in SC, just thought it was me, don’t eat mammals, kind of like “kissin yur sister,” haha? Oh well. Had all the symptoms described… managed to suffer through them, I didn’t think I’d make it one night, still here…hehehe.
    Really, it’s kind of a blessing in the sense I eat healthier as a result. Very interesting……. Did I hear them comment, people with this condition are more resistant to Lyme Disease??
    Thanks for sharing your experience. As for Lyme, we’re not sure you heard that correctly. You may have to listen to the show again, though, to verify. It posts on Monday.

    I have had this allergy since 2007 and I generally avoid mammal meat (with a hamburger here and there due to my weakness for them). Why do certain cuts of beef cause a worse reaction, like a filet mignon, but a fatty cut, high fat ground beef, seems to not cause a reaction or far less? Also, do grain fed cows have a different make-up vs. grass fed?

    In May-June of 2011, I had three tick bites (three different days) during a work project in Greensboro, NC. This was despite long pants, socks, boots, long sleeved shirt and hat (needless to say, my activity was early in the morning). As a NC native, these were certainly not my first tick bites, but they are the first three that have itched regularly since then. One bite on my back, one on my side and one on my ankle.
    Is there any method of determining my level of risk? By the way, I still have two of the ticks in a little bottle. No symptoms so far, but I am naturally a big fan of barbeque and country ham.
    P.S. I also have a serious allergy to fire ants for which I carry an epi-pen even though I am seven years into anti-venom injections.

    I have Alpha-Gal allergy and heard that over time, it will diminish and/or “go away.” is this true?

    I struggled with this problem for 13 years. It started out with beef but after a year extended to all kinds of meat except chicken, turkey, and fish. At first I thought it had something to do with hormones and antibiotics but eating hormone/antibiotic free versions produced the same results. I have even broken out in hives if I spit out a mouthful after realizing there was beef or pork in the food. (I did this once with what I thought was bean dip.)
    Doctors have raised their eyebrows and mostly dismissed my description of this occurrence; only the corroboration of my husband has kept friends from disbelief. I started having this issue when living in Piedmont NC where there are a lot of ticks.
    About two years ago, I started making and drinking my own kombucha tea. About a year in to this regimen, I accidentally ate a sausage ball (that I thought was a cheeseball) at a reception. Nothing happened. I experimented with small amounts of other meats and was able to eat it with no reaction.
    On a trip out west last winter, I wasn’t able to continue my kombucha regimen (3x/week), and when I ate beef, I broke out in hives four or five hours later. Back home after resuming the kombucha, I was able to eat meat again.
    I realize that this is anecdotal evidence, but I wonder if there’s a way that kombucha could acidify my system in a way that would allow easier digestion or affect the tick bite antibodies???
    I’m very grateful for the program as is my husband. It’s the first time we’ve ever gotten any validation that this is a documented health issue. I still don’t understand the tick bite connection and how the antibodies to a tick bite trigger the reaction, but I plan to listen again when the podcast is available.

    I, too, have this allergy, but was lucky enough to be living in Central VA, getting all of my medical care within the UVA system. So when I asked my family practice doctor to send me to an allergist, I was sent straight into Dr. Platts-Mill’s office. They told me immediately what was wrong with me. Yes, avoidance is the only way of life, but it gives those of us infected a very healthy diet. I also can’t consume by-products (ie: dairy).
    I have to say I’m mystified (and a bit offended) by Dr. Jim’s comments (above) that “clinically significant cases are so uncommon that it is appropriately below the radar of most physicians and should be kept low on a differential diagnosis.” Surely those of us who have been rushed to the emergency room with no blood pressure and windpipes closing down don’t deserve to have our allergy ignored, even if we are a small number! We can’t go out to eat easily, or visit friends without great warnings of food needs. There’s little to eat in the average grocery store that isn’t laden with dairy products or dairy additives for preserving. But all of the trouble feeding ourselves is worth it to avoid losing yet another miserable day to hives, in an antihistamine haze.
    I understand that the allergy was originally viewed as mostly isolated to the deer tick’s region, but cases are being reported more and more outside of our Mid-Atlantic area. Any research Dr. Mills-Platt and his team of doctors can do to help find a cure and to normalize the lives of those with the Alpha-Gal allergy will be lauded by enough people to make UVA’s work invaluable! I for one give them a standing ovation!

    I had a allergic reaction from eating heavenly ham at a hospital Christmas party. Thank goodness the emergency room was just down the hall, where I spent the afternoon recovering. It turns out I am allergic to carmine food coloring, and apparently it was used to color the ham. It’s too bad it is being used to color food nowdays. Its considered a natural coloring,made from cochineal bug. I am highly allergic to it and must carry an epi-pen. It isn’t always listed. thanks.

    Jim, I’m not sure where your practice is located, but in central Virginia alone we have hundreds of alpha-gal allergic patients, many of whom have been to the ER with anaphylactic reactions to mammalian meat. I would agree that in many areas of the US, alpha-gal allergy should not be a major consideration, but in the southeast, it is absolutely an issue.
    As to your concerns about financial gains, I can assure you that Dr. Platts-Mills and the University of Virginia do not profit from any of the commercial assays available.

    I’ve suffered from this allergy for 10 years, hence by delight in hearing this show.
    THANK HEAVENS there is now tangible proof that I’m not a picky eater who has invented this allergy to specific meats to be irritating.
    I have one one friend who suffers from the same specialized problem. We tried and tried to figure out what we had in common, nothing came to mind except that we had once been married to men from Scotland. Hmmm. All those lambs’ tongues and shepards’ pies????
    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. I’m wildly keen to send the radio show’s transcript to each and every doctor who think we are all nuts-which I’m not allergic to. Really, some of the allergists have been quite rude and very dim.
    A million thanks. Best P


    I’m am so grateful to hear the show this morning. I have been in the emergency room several times with these symptoms and have been tested and treated for various things including angio edema, heart attack, taken off ace inhibitors for my hypertension, and treated for hives with prednisone which I now also have a horrible reaction to (I’m sorry to say this hasn’t been taken very seriously either)!
    I have been experiencing these reactions since 2005. I’ve been convinced I was allergic to beef since 2008 but my Dr.’s basically haven’t believed me. I was told by a friend about six months ago it was caused by a tick bite. I could hardly believe it myself so I looked up the studies from VA.
    THANK YOU so much for doing this program. I hope this information gets into Dr.’s hands as soon as possible. It’s very exciting to hear there is a test for the alpha-gal. I think my allergist will be happy to know about this.

    I was diagnosed with a meat and pork allegy in 2008. I would have very servere reactions: hives, heart racing, and they would occur during 1-2 oclock in the morning. Oh well, there is no way around it except avoidance. Very sad, I would give anything to have half a hamburger.

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