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Alpha Gal Syndrome: Are Tick Bites Connected To This Illness?

Alpha Gal Syndrome, or AGS, is a red meat allergy that is triggered by a bite from a lone star tick. Thousands of people across the USA are actually affected by this, as seen by the fact that many people have become allergic to meat products in recent years.

So what really is this illness? How does it come about and how does one know they are allergic to red meat?

What is AGS?

Alpha Gal is a sugar molecule that is found in mammals, as well as products from mammals like milk and red meat. This sugar molecule is injected into the body by a bite from a lone star tick, causing an allergic reaction to red meat, milk products, or gelatin to mention a few.

A little-known, life-threatening food allergy that is triggered by a tick bite could be affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Thursday.

The condition is called Alpha-Gal Syndrome (AGS) — also known as the “red-meat allergy” or the “tick bite meat allergy.” It begins with a bite from the Lone Star tick, found primarily in Southeastern and Eastern states.

The tick’s saliva contains a sugar molecule called alpha-gal, which is injected into the body with the bite.

This triggers allergies to certain types of red meat (primarily pork, beef, rabbit, lamb or venison) or products made from mammals (including cheese, milk, other dairy products and gelatin). Read more from New York Post…

It can be a life-threatening allergic condition to some people, and many are testing positive for AGS.

Signs you could have AGS

AGS reactions may include itching skin, rash, vomiting, nausea, shortness of breath, swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, stomach pain, dizziness or even fainting. These symptoms occur between two to six hours after ingesting this sugar molecule.

Alpha-gal symptoms differ from other allergic reactions in that they are significantly delayed. Reactions to animal products will happen within eight hours of eating. This delay, and the relative newness of alpha-gal’s discovery, means the syndrome goes undiagnosed.

Alpha-gal syndrome reaction symptoms often involve:

  • Rashes
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Extreme itching

However, symptoms of alpha-gal vary from case to case. The severity of these symptoms also varies from person to person and can become more severe as time goes on. Drinking alcohol or exercising after you eat may slow down the reaction time. Sometimes the symptoms of a reaction from an alpha-gal allergy can even lead to death.  Read more from WebMD…

The mildness or severity of these symptoms can vary from person to person; some people may end up in the ER while others may not even notice the symptoms.

Do tick bites cause AGS?

Yes, AGS is associated with tick bites. The lone star tick is known as one of the species of ticks that bite humans. Other species of ticks have not been ruled out as they still cause AGS in other countries.

Experts think the ticks that cause alpha-gal syndrome carry alpha-gal molecules. These come from the blood of the animals they usually bite, such as cows and sheep. When a tick that carries these molecules bites a human, the tick sends alpha-gal into the person’s body.

For unknown reasons, some people have a strong immune response to these molecules. The body makes proteins called antibodies. These antibodies target alpha-gal as something the immune system needs to clear out. The response is so strong that people with this allergy can no longer eat red meat. They cannot eat any foods made from mammals without having an allergic reaction. People who get many tick bites over time may develop worse symptoms. Read more from Mayo Clinic…

Research is still ongoing on how ticks cause this condition and why people develop these allergic reactions.

One of the best ways to prevent AGS is to get rid of all traces of ticks around your home. At Backyard Bug Patrol we are equipped to assist you in case of any tick infestation in your home. Do not hesitate to reach out to us; we are just a call away.