What is alpha-gal?
- Alpha-gal (galactose-α-1,3-galactose) is a sugar molecule found in most mammals (except in people, apes, and monkeys).
- Alpha-gal is not normally found in fish, reptiles, or birds.
- Alpha-gal can be found in products made from mammals (including some medications, cosmetics, vaccines, gelatin, and milk products).
- Alpha-gal has also been found in some types of ticks.
What is alpha-gal allergy?
- An alpha-gal allergy is an allergy to the alpha-gal sugar molecule. Allergic reactions typically occur after people eat meat from mammals that have alpha-gal or are exposed to products made from mammals.
What are the symptoms of alpha-gal allergy?
Symptoms can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Drop in blood pressure
- Dizziness or faintness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Severe stomach pain
- Symptoms of an alpha-gal allergy commonly appear 3-6 hours after eating meat (e.g., beef, lamb, pork, venison, and rabbit) or exposure to products containing alpha-gal.
- Symptoms may not occur after every exposure and can vary from person to person.
Alpha-gal allergies can be severe, and even life-threatening. See a healthcare provider immediately if you are concerned about a severe allergic reaction.
How do I know if I have an alpha-gal allergy?
- Alpha-gal allergy is diagnosed by an allergist, or other healthcare provider, through a detailed patient history, physical examination, and a blood test that looks for specific antibodies (IgE antibodies) to alpha-gal.
What can I do if I have an alpha-gal allergy?
- Alpha-gal allergy should be managed under the care and supervision of a healthcare provider. Early recognition and changes in diet (e.g., avoiding meat) may prevent serious and life-threatening health problems.
Who as at risk for developing an alpha-gal allergy?
- Most cases of alpha-gal allergy have been reported in the southeastern and midwestern United States.
- Both children and adults can develop alpha-gal allergy; however, most cases of alpha-gal allergy appear to be in people >50 years of age.
Can you get an alpha-gal allergy from a tick bite?
- Scientists do not yet know. Data from the United States and other countries suggest that alpha-gal allergy may be associated with tick bites. However, more research is needed to determine if tick bites can cause alpha-gal allergy.
What can you do to prevent alpha-gal allergy?
Until additional research confirms this association with tick bites, take steps to prevent tick bites.
- Before you go outdoors
- Avoid grassy, brushy, and wooded areas, where ticks may be found.
- Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.external icon
- After you come indoors
- Check your clothing for ticks.
- Shower and perform a thorough tick check.
- If you see an attached tick, remove it immediately.