What is alpha-gal?
- Alpha-gal (galactose-α-1,3-galactose) is a sugar molecule found in most mammals.
- Alpha-gal is not normally found in fish, reptiles, birds, or people.
- Alpha-gal can be found in products made from mammals (including some medications, cosmetics, vaccines, gelatin, and milk products).
- There is evidence that the alpha-gal molecule is found in the saliva of certain types of ticks.
What is alpha-gal syndrome (AGS)?
Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) (also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy) is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. AGS may occur after people eat red meat or are exposed to other products containing alpha-gal.
What are the symptoms of AGS?
AGS reactions can include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Drop in blood pressure
- Dizziness or faintness
- Severe stomach pain
- Symptoms commonly appear 3-6 hours after eating meat or exposure to products containing alpha-gal (for example, gelatin-coated medications).
- AGS reactions can be different from person-to-person and can range from mild to severe or even life-threatening.
- If you think you may have AGS go talk to your healthcare provider.
- People may not have an allergic reaction after every alpha-gal exposure.
AGS can be severe, and even life-threatening. Seek immediate emergency care if you are having a severe allergic reaction.
How do I know if I have AGS?
- AGS 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 to alpha-gal.
- Your healthcare provider may also recommend allergy skin testing.
What should I do if I have AGS?
- If you have AGS, you should continue to see your allergist or healthcare provider as recommended.
- If you have AGS, prevent serious or life-threatening reactions by changing your diet to avoid meat and other products that contain alpha-gal.
- People with AGS should take steps to prevent tick bites. New tick bites may cause an AGS reaction.
Who as at risk for developing AGS?
- Most cases reported to date are among people living in the southeastern United States.
- While both children and adults have been diagnosed with AGS, most cases have been reported in adults.
Can you get AGS from a tick bite?
- Growing evidence suggests that AGS may be triggered by the bite of a lone star or blacklegged tick.
- More research is needed to understand the role ticks play in triggering this reaction, and why certain people develop AGS.
What can you do to prevent AGS?
Preventing tick bites is important in reducing exposure to tickborne disease and may reduce the likelihood of developing AGS.
- 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 repellentsexternal 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.