Developing an allergy to the delicious meat products that come from hooved animals that walk on all fours would be a nightmare for many a Southern foodie, but it’s becoming more and more commonplace, and it’s largely linked to tick bites.
Alpha-gal allergy was first noted in 2011 and has been growing in frequency ever since; it’s a reaction to a carbohydrate molecule found in mammalian meat. Tick bites can cause the body to produce an allergic class of antibodies that attach to the carbohydrates found in meat, thus causing the reaction.
“I’m not sure if it’s the active outdoor lifestyle of Middle Georgians, but we’re seeing frequent cases of alpha-gal sensitivity,” says Dr. Jeff Langford of Langford Allergy. Symptoms of the allergy usually appear within three to six hours after eating meat, and they include itching palms of hands and soles of feet, hives, swelling, cramping, nausea, and other less pleasant gastrointestinal disruptions.
If you suspect that you’re having an allergic reaction, don’t wait it out – take some Benadryl or use an Epi-pen if you have one handy, then head to your nearest medical facility to be checked out. You can also contact the team at Langford Allergy to schedule a diagnostic test; they’ll be able to give you resources and advice so you can safeguard yourself against future allergic reactions. You’ll have to avoid beef, pork, lamb, and all their by-products (including veggies cooked with ham hocks or lard, and sometimes even ice cream with a high milk fat content) but in some cases the allergy can be transient, dissipating within several years. Working with a team of knowledgeable allergists is your best bet in managing this issue and ensuring your body’s health.
Now that the weather’s cooled down, hunting season is upon us, and camping is a popular outdoor activity. Be sure to be proactive about tick bites with everyone in your family when spending time outdoors in wooded areas. Use repellents containing ingredients like Permethrin and Deet which are designed to repel and even kill offending ticks before they can cause harm.