As hunting season approaches in Kentucky, it’s imperative that our hunters – or anyone who spends a considerable time outdoors – has a deep understanding of alpha gal syndrome. Allow us to answer frequently asked questions about this condition:
What is alpha-gal syndrome?
To best understand alpha-gal syndrome, it’s vital to understand what alpha-gal is. Alpha-gal is a sugar molecule that is found in most mammals, including the Lone Star Tick. Humans do not naturally have this sugar molecule in their bloodstream. Once the molecule enters our bloodstream via a tick bite, humans become sensitized to other alpha-gal sugar molecules that are found in food. The development of alpha-gal syndrome can be broken down into three steps:
- When a Lone Star Tick bites a person, it transfers the alpha-gal sugar molecule into the person’s bloodstream.
- Upon eating red meat or other mammal products, the alpha-gal sugar molecule will trigger a negative immune system response.
- This response may cause food allergy symptoms or, in severe cases, anaphylactic shock.
If the consumption of red meat or other mammal products such as pork, venison, or lamb causes frustrating symptoms, it’s possible that you have developed alpha-gal syndrome.
What are the symptoms of alpha gal syndrome?
Alpha-gal syndrome was not truly understood until two decades ago because of one reason – the time between consumption of mammal meat and the allergic reaction. If alpha-gal syndrome is present, you may not experience food allergy symptoms for several hours after consuming the food! If you notice any of the following symptoms, seek help immediately:
- Anaphylactic shock
- Asthma-like symptoms such as – wheezing or shortness of breath
- Digestive issues such as – stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- Hives, itching, or itchy, scaly skin
- Runny nose or consistent sneezing
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other body parts
How will Dr. Brauer test for alpha-gal syndrome?
Dr. Brauer will conduct either a skin test or blood test to determine if you are dealing with alpha-gal syndrome. During a skin test, your skin will be slightly pricked, and the allergen will be placed on the skin. Within minutes, your skin will show signs of irritation if you are allergic.
During a blood test, our team will take a sample of your blood and examine it to see if alpha-gal specific antibodies are present. These antibodies are called immunoglobulin E, or IgE antibodies. These alpha-gal specific antibodies are your body’s way of fighting off the “intruder”, hence why you experience frustrating symptoms. Your body is trying to rid itself of the allergen via sneezing, diarrhea, and other symptoms.