The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1167: Will a Tick Bite Make You Allergic to Meat?

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Many people have had a tick bite and are now allergic to red meat. The culprit is the lone star tick that triggers an alpha-gal allergy. How does that work?
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For some years, emergency doctors and allergists were puzzled by people who started having extremely serious allergic reactions in the middle of the night, a long time after they had eaten or drunk anything or had any contact with obvious allergens. Smart sleuthing from our guest and his colleagues determined that a tick bite can set a person up for an unusual hours-delayed allergic reaction to eating beef, pork, lamb or any other type of mammalian meat. We call this type of reaction after the bite of a lone star tick an alpha-gal allergy. People with this condition have to avoid red meat. Some of those who suffer from it say that they can’t even drink milk or eat cheese.

What Is the Story on Tick Bite and Alpha-Gal Allergy?

Dr. Scott Commins was part of the original research team that identified this problem. He can explain exactly what is going on and why people may react in such varied ways to an alpha-gal allergy. If you have experienced alpha-gal and you have questions about it, Dr. Commins can answer them.

Other Summertime Allergies:

Have you ever had an allergic reaction to an insect sting? What should you do about it? Ask Dr. Commins for advice on this common summertime hazard.

We will also discuss a few of the other concerns that may arise around a tick bite. In addition, we’ll consider food allergies in adults and kids. The alpha-gal picture for people who are allergic to meat is unusual partly because of the delay. Most food allergies strike quickly. How should you respond? Is there a way to be prepared for an allergic reaction?

Do You Have a Question?

Call in your questions about alpha-gal and other allergies: 888-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EDT on Saturday, June 1, 2019. Or send us email: radio@peoplespharmacy.com

This Week’s Guest:

Scott P. Commins, MD, PhD, is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chris Polydoroff took the photograph of Dr. Commins.

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