Allergy Alert for Hampton Goers: Watch out for Red Meat Allergy (hint: it's not in the meat)

lighthouseThe old saying:” There is nothing new under the sun…”

Well, in medicine new developments happen right under our noses every day. Since 2007, allergy researchers at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville reported cases of an unusual allergy in patients eating red meat from areas along the east coast from Virginia, Eastern Long Island and as far north as Nantucket. These cases were intriguing because of their atypical allergy presentation.
Normally, if a patient eats a food they are allergic to (such as a strawberry or a peanut) they develop allergic symptoms such as rashes, difficulty breathing or stomach pains and vomiting within the hour of digesting the foods. When a patient comes to me with this history, we review the foods they recently ate and then we can determine from the history and testing the usual source of the allergen. In the cases of this “Red Meat Allergy” syndrome, that logic goes out the window.

A Typical Case

In a typical “Red Meat Allergy” case, the patient reported eating red meat for dinner while vacationing in the Hamptons. Almost 6 hours later, he woke up in the night covered in hives and is having trouble breathing. He went to Southampton Hospital and was given intravenous antihistamines and told to see an allergist for testing. He went to the allergist who did a panel of allergy tests, but the patient didn’t show an allergy to online casino any foods he ate for dinner, including the steak he ate. Fortunately, the allergy doctor in the Hamptons had seen almost 70 cases of this unusual food allergy reaction. She was aware of Dr. Platts-Mills discovery that there was a connection between tick bites and red meat allergy.

Apparently, a tick known as the Lone Star, which is endemic along the east coast (as is Ixodes for Lyme) and can generate antibodies to a component called alpha-gal. Alpha-gal is a sugar naturally found in mammalian meat, so if a person has the antibodies from the tick bites in their system and they eat red meat (which can take several hours to digest) the interaction of the alpha-gal sugar and the antibody sets off an allergic reaction.

Lone-Star-Tick

Lone Star Tick

These reactions can occur with several types of red meat: lamb, beef and pork. It’s important to note that gel-caps contain gelatin that is made from pork and is used for fillers for vitamins or medications.

The good news is that no one has died from these allergic reactions- but you don’t want to experience this problem over and over again!

You don’t have to swear off meat if you like dining in the Hamptons… but consider a nice fish or vegetarian dish if you notice a bunch of tick bites on your legs.

Enjoy your summer and…Have a Wonderful Father’s Day!

Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island

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