Prognosis. Unlike most food allergies, in some people, the alpha-gal allergy may recede over time, as long as the person is not bitten by another tick. The recovery period can take 8 months to 5 years.
Alpha-gal syndrome doesn’t go away, but you can manage symptoms by avoiding: Meats, organs, and blood of mammals.
Symptoms of alpha-gal syndrome may lessen or even disappear over time if you don’t get any more bites from ticks that carry alpha-gal. Some people with this condition have been able to eat red meat and other mammal products again after one to two years without additional bites.
It appears in many patients to be transient. They may have 18-24 months without red meat, and then we begin to follow their blood test level—which is another reason to have the blood test done—it typically trends down over time.
In alpha-gal syndrome, reactions usually appear about three to six hours after exposure. Red meat, such as beef, pork or lamb; organ meats; and products made from mammals, such as gelatins or dairy products, can cause a reaction.
Is there a treatment for alpha-gal allergies? Avoidance is the only option for patients with an alpha-gal allergy. There is no cure. It will be important to check ingredients of foods that may contain meat-based ingredients to avoid them.
Treating and preventing alpha-gal allergy
Allergic reactions to alpha-gal can be treated with an over-the-counter antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Stronger reactions provoked by alpha-gal might need to be addressed with epinephrine.
Food products that contain milk and milk products typically contain alpha-gal. Many patients with AGS can tolerate milk products. Cow’s milk is the only alpha-gal containing ingredient classified as a major food allergen.
It is important to note that these signs and symptoms may not appear for 3 to 6 hours after eating red meat or exposure to products containing the alpha-gal molecule. Drinking alcohol or exercising may reduce the time until a reaction occurs.
Again, this includes, beef, pork, lamb, venison, mutton, goat, and bison, plus any food that contains red meat extracts. Some individuals with alpha-gal allergy must also avoid dairy products made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk.
Commins (2020) predicted that the percentage of individuals living in endemic tick areas that have been sensitized to α-gal ranges from 15–30%.
But unlike other common food allergies, the alpha-gal allergy has been found only in people who have been bitten by ticks—specifically the lone star tick, previously best known for causing a condition called southern tick-associated rash illness, the symptoms of which include rash, fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle …
The lone star tick also carries a form of ehrlichiosis but has similar symptoms. How long does the tick have to be attached to infect a person? It depends on the infective agent. For Lyme, the tick needs to be at least partially engorged with blood and/or attached for at least 36 hours.
Individuals bitten by the Lone Star tick can develop an allergy (IgE) antibody to alpha-gal (but not everyone does) Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, venison) contains alpha-gal.
Lieberman’s clinic is in the heart of Tennessee deer country – Lone Star tick territory. Data from studies in high-risk areas peg the prevalence of alpha-gal allergy between 1 and 3 percent of the population.
IgG and IgM antibodies to α-gal are reported to protect against malaria because mosquito-derived sporozoites of malaria parasites express α-gal on their surface.
Jennifer Burton said, “I was diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome after months of battling the common escalating symptoms of AGS—extreme fatigue, joint pain, rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, GI distress and bloating, angioedema, urticaria, and four anaphylactic episodes (two nearly fatal).”……
For instance, magnesium stearate and gelatin are found in formulations of acetaminophen, naproxen, lisinopril, clonidine, and hydrocodone, and allergic reactions to these medications have been potentially linked to alpha-gal.
Diagnosis is particularly challenging in patients with a history of reacting to mammalian products but whose blood test for alpha-gal IgE is negative. In our clinical experience, this occurs in approximately 2% of patients referred for AGS evaluation.
Each person’s reaction to the tick bite is different; where some have minor allergies to red meat, others may develop a severe allergy to meat and dairy. Unlike most food allergies, symptoms of alpha-gal won’t be present until 3-6 hours after consumption.
While there have been reports of patients recovering, some do not. Those who have recovered usually do so by avoiding further tick bites and exposure to alpha-gal containing products, but this is by no means a guarantee that the condition will go into remission.
Reactions to substances in the saliva of lone star ticks can cause itching and redness around the bite that may last two weeks or longer (Fig 3.). While bites are irritating, the more serious threat is the transfer certain microorganisms from infected animals to humans as the ticks feed.
The attached tick is identified as an adult or nymphal Ixodes scapularis (deer) tick. The tick is estimated to have been attached for ≥36 hours (based upon how engorged the tick appears or the amount of time since outdoor exposure). The antibiotic can be given within 72 hours of tick removal.
A person who gets bitten by a tick usually won’t feel anything at all. There might be a little redness around the area of the bite. If you think you’ve been bitten by a tick, tell an adult immediately. Some ticks carry diseases (such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever) and can pass them to people.
Researchers have identified cases of rare red meat allergy linked to tick bites. Lone Star ticks range from the Southeast through the Eastern United States and bites from the arachnids are known to cause a rare allergy to galactose-α-1,3-galactose (α-gal), a type of sugar found in beef, pork, lamb, and other red meats.
Alpha-gal does not appear to be related to Lyme disease, except that both are caused by tick bites. Lyme disease occurs after people are bitten by a blacklegged tick carrying a specific bacterium. Alpha-gal syndrome is an immune reaction to the sugar from the Lone Star tick.
They can range from mild to severe or even life-threatening. Anaphylaxis (a potentially life-threatening reaction involving multiple organ systems) may need urgent medical care. People may not have an allergic reaction after every alpha-gal exposure.
People with alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) can react to gelatin derived from mammals, like bovine or porcine gelatin.
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