Meat allergy is when a person develops an allergy to eating red meat. People can develop this allergy through two different ways: having a pre-existing allergy to milk and getting bitten by the Lone Star tick. According to statistics, this type of allergy is still uncommon but nonetheless it is starting to become a cause for concern for many people.
People with meat allergy can either be allergic to only red meat or they could also be allergic to poultry. The defining characteristic of meat allergy is that people with this condition are allergic to any meat coming from a mammal (beef, lamb, pork, goat, whale and seal).
What causes meat allergy?
Scientists are still trying to figure out what causes meat allergy of some individuals. According to some findings babies who are allergic to milk may also develop an allergy to meat. But the most prominent cause of meat allergy so far is incurring a bite from the Lone Star tick. The Lone Star tick, also referred to as Amblyomma americanum, is an insect found mostly in the southeast part of the United States. These insects can be found in Texas and Iowa and New England too.
According to scientists, when a Lone Star tick bites an individual that person can develop an intolerance to a carbohydrate called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (Alpha-gal). Alpha-gal can be found in most mammalian cell membranes so a person with this form of meat allergy can safely eat poultry and seafood. Human bodies do not have alpha-gal so our immune system will deem this substance as a threat and it will soon attack it when an individual eats meat from a mammal.
Although the Lone Star tick is often found in southeast US scientists have discovered another tick (Castor Bean tick) that can inflict the same kind of allergy, which was found in Sweden.
Scientists also found that most individuals who are allergic to red meat have an A or O blood type. This is because the B antigen in B or AB blood types is very similar to the allergen that triggers meat allergy so people with those kinds of blood types are already immune to this condition.
Symptoms of meat allergy
A person with meat allergy will develop the following symptoms:
- Fever (sometimes)
- Swollen tissue (angioedema)
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Swollen eyes
- Teary eyes
- Rapid heart rate
- Anaphylaxis (rarely)
Diagnosing meat allergy
In order to manage your meat allergy you should first determine if you are indeed allergic to red meat. If you are exhibiting symptoms mentioned above after ingesting red meat consult a physician right away and they will conduct various tests to see if you have meat allergy.
An allergist will ask you questions related to your diet and the symptoms that occurred so it’s likely that he will ask you what kind of food you ate, how much red meat you’ve eaten, how long before the symptoms occurred and how long the symptoms lasted. After that he will either conduct a skin prick test or an IgE blood test to determine if you are allergic to red meat.
The skin prick test entails breaking the surface of your skin on your hand with a sterile small probe that has a small portion of the food allergen. The allergist will wait for wheals to appear before he concludes that you are allergic to red meat.
Another test he can conduct is the IgE blood test wherein blood from you will be drawn and the allergist will then see how many IgE antibodies are present in the food that will be used in the test.
Managing meat allergy
After you’ve been diagnosed with meat allergy the allergist will then prescribe you with antihistamines to alleviate your symptoms. He will also advise you to stay away from red meat and to be careful when dining out. Make sure that you’re aware of every ingredient in a meal that you’re about to eat outside the house.
Meat allergy is an existing condition but luckily it is still considered rare. But if you are diagnosed with this condition know for certain that it is manageable.