Though rare, it is possible to have an allergy to meat including beef, pork and poultry. It’s also possible to develop an allergy as an adult, even if you have consumed that type of meat without issue before.
What Causes a Meat Allergy?
Food allergies happen when your body mistakes a harmless substance in a specific food as a threat. Whenever you ingest it, the allergen binds to IgE antibodies and causes cells to release the chemical, histamine, which brings on your allergy symptoms.
As is the case with most food allergies, the cause of your meat allergy may be unknown. However, allergies to red meat can sometimes be traced back to a bite from a Lone Star Tick.
Lone Star Tick and Alpha-Gal Syndrome
A bite from a Lone Star tick can transmit a carbohydrate called alpha-gal into your body. In some people, this triggers an immune response that produces allergic reactions to red meat, such as beef, pork or lamb.
As you may have guessed from the name, Lone Star ticks can be found in Texas, as well as much of the southeast part of the United States.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and develop immediately or over the course of several hours. They may include:
- Rash or hives
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Swollen, watery eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart rate
- Dizziness and confusion
If you have a meat allergy, you may be at risk for anaphylaxis. This is a rare but life-threatening allergic reaction that constricts your airways and requires immediate medical attention.
If your meat allergy is related to alpha-gal, your symptoms may not show up for hours. This is different from most food allergies which often occur immediately and can make a red meat allergy harder to diagnose.
What to Do
- Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat as well as any symptoms you experience.
- See an allergist. The only way to know for sure if you have a food allergy is to visit an allergist. They will go over your symptoms and perform allergy testing to make an accurate diagnosis.
- Watch what you eat. If testing shows you have an allergy to meat, the best treatment is to avoid consuming it. This means if you’re allergic to beef, stick to the pecan smoked turkey on your next trip to Bellville Meat Market.
- Get a prescription EpiPen. Since food allergies run the risk of causing anaphylaxis, your doctor may prescribe an epinephrine injector. Make sure you understand how to use it properly and carry it with you everywhere you go.
If you have additional questions about meat allergies or wish to schedule an appointment, call Texas ENT & Allergy today.