We love our emu meat and eat it regularly in place of beef, pork, venison, and more. But for those with alpha gal allergy, a largely unknown allergy to mammal meat caused by a tick bite, these other red meats are off limits and emu (or other ratites) are their only source of red meat.
So what is it? How do you get it? And how do you know if you got it?? It turns out, those answers aren’t so clear and it is still often misdiagnosed or even denied by some medical providers because of the huge variability in symptoms. But the consequences of having it can impact every. single. aspect. of your life.
Alpha-galactose-A-1,3-galactose (alpha gal) is a sugar molecule found in mammalian meat and other products made from mammals. Alpha gal allergy can develop after a bite from lone star tick causes your body to become allergic to this sugar. What happens is only just recently understood, which is why many doctors did not recognize or acknowledge it. Like most allergies, symptoms can vary from person to person, from mild rash, swelling, nausea, and indigestion, all the way to severe anaphylaxis causing life threatening conditions. It is even harder to diagnose because symptoms can appear from 2 to 8 hours after exposure, sometimes even longer. Not every lone star tick bite causes the allergy. Not every person bitten will develop the allergy. In some people, a severe reaction will be immediate, and in some it, will slowly worsen over time.
Because of this variability, it is hard to track cases and most information comes from self reporting after a long and difficult road to determine what is wrong.
To find out more about symptoms, a map showing where it is prevalent, the many everyday products containing the alpha gal sugar, and how to protect yourself…check out the resources on our website.
Only recently has this been addressed by the CDC. Check out their guidance
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can be mild or severe, including itching, hives, erythema, ageioedema, abdominal pain and cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, shortness of breath, chest tightness, cough, dizziness, and cardio vascular disease
Protect yourself from ticks (more active during summer months) by avoiding areas where they are found, using an insect repellent if you are in a woody or brushy area, carefully checking yourself and your animals, your clothes, and equipment after being outdoors in such an area. Remove a tick only very carefully without squeezing or twisting. See how to remove.
If you are allergic to the alpha gal sugar molecule, it is in so much more than just meat and dairy. Sometimes even fumes from cooking carry the molecule and can cause a reaction. And, animal bi-products are in soooo many more things you would never expect. Glycerine, gelatin, magnesium stearate, Medical products, medicines, beauty products, and so much more…
This map and many more resources at alphagalinformation.org
Here is a link to the latest map where you can see that it is most prevalent in areas where the lone star tick is common, but note how often it is starting to move westward….