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What Is Alpha Gal Syndrome?

Alpha-gal syndrome, or  AGS, is an allergic condition in people allergic to red meat. It occurs when individuals develop an allergic reaction to the alpha-gal molecule, a sugar molecule found in red meat. The Lone Star tick can also transmit the alpha-gal molecule through its saliva when it bites you.

The alpha-gal molecule triggers an immune response by the body, leading to the flare-up of allergic symptoms. Symptoms vary from mild to potentially life-threatening allergic reactions that require prompt medical attention.

AGS can be prevented by avoiding unapproved red meat and wearing protective wear when handling tick-infested livestock or hunting in the wild. However, in the event that  you or a loved one does become infected with Alpha Gal Syndrome, our team of AGS experts here at Premier Allergy & Asthma is here to offer our assistance and support. Contact us today!

What Causes Alpha-Gal Syndrome?

The name alpha-gal syndrome is derived from the alpha-galactose molecule found in mammals. Some people are naturally allergic to this molecule, and consuming red meat can cause a flare-up of these allergic conditions.

Alpha-gal syndrome is also caused by the Lone Star tick, which is found in the Eastern and south-central states. When the Lone Star tick bites you, it transmits the alpha-gal molecule into the bloodstream, leading to the production of anti-alpha-gal antibodies that cause allergic reactions.

However, it’s worth noting that not everyone will experience allergic reactions after a Lone Star bite. Alpha-gal syndrome only affects people with genetic predispositions to these allergies. A combination of genetics and environmental factors influences the development and severity of alpha-gal syndrome.


Common Symptoms of Alpha-Gal Syndrome

Skin Reactions

Alpha-gal syndrome causes various reactions, including rashes that appear as red itchy bumps that become redder and itchier with persistent scratching. You might also experience flushing or erythema, causing redness that’s especially noticeable on the fingers and toes. Other skin reactions include hives and swelling of the lips and face.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Patients might also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Some individuals also experience cramps, indigestion, and heartburn, which disappear after taking medication.

Lung Symptoms

AGS may also trigger lung and respiratory complications. These complications include wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. In severe cases, AGS may trigger anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that causes swelling of the tongue and throat and disrupts breathing.

How to Treat Alpha-Gal

Identifying and Avoiding Allergens

Preventive measures are your first line of defense against alpha-gal syndrome. You can prevent alpha-gal by steering clear of red meat and spraying your pets and farm animals to eliminate Lone Star ticks. Tick repellent works just as well.

Anti-Allergy Medication

OTC antihistamines are excellent at alleviating certain allergic symptoms like rashes, swelling, and wheezing, among others. However, they can only do so much for the allergic symptoms. A better solution is to see a doctor so they can prescribe you stronger antihistamines and more effective treatment. This is especially true for severe cases that involve anaphylaxis.