Do You Have a Meat Allergy?
About eight percent of children and two percent of adults around the world are affected by food allergies, therefore, it’s quite a common allergic disorder. Most people allergic to foods react to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, cow’s milk, soy, wheat, fish, or shellfish. A lot of adults with allergy also develop symptoms to certain fruits or vegetables as a result of cross-reactivity reaction caused by pollen allergy. Meat has also been reported to trigger an allergic reaction, but meat allergy is rare. To start with, meat is usually eaten cooked or processed, which means that many allergenic proteins are broken down and neutralized.
Yet, allergic reactions to meat products do occur. Some people may experience an immediate reaction, while others develop the symptoms after several hours.
An immediate allergic reaction to meat occurs within a few minutes after you eat a meat product. The symptoms may vary from mild to severe and life-threatening. Mild symptoms include itchy skin, hives, or nausea, whereas tachycardia, breathing difficulty and swelling (angioedema) are considered as more serious symptoms. There is also a risk of developing anaphylaxis.
When it comes to delayed allergic reactions, also known as food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), it may take up to several hours for the symptoms to appear. Normally, these symptoms are milder and include rash, hives, or gastrointestinal symptoms.
What Types of Meat Allergy Are There?
Beef. Compared to other potentially allergenic types of meat protein, beef is the most common trigger of meat allergies. According to research, about 20 percent of children are allergic to beef. Having atopic dermatitis increases the risk of reacting to beef. Besides, if you have a beef allergy, you are also prone to developing a milk allergy.
Apart from meat-based food products, people allergic to beef may also react to certain vaccines that contain beef gelatin.
Pork. Pork or wild boar meat can also trigger an allergy-like reaction. In most cases, however, pork allergy is a cross-reactive response known as pork-cat syndrome that is related to a cat allergy. The molecular structure of cat albumin is similar to that of pork, which can make those with cat allergy cross-react to pork.
If you are allergic to pork, you are likely to have a cat allergy. However, it doesn’t work vice versa, because only cat allergy is considered as the true allergic disorder.
Poultry. Poultry is way less likely to trigger an allergy than meat. In some cases, people may experience allergy-like symptoms after eating undercooked chicken, turkey or other poultry.
Cross-reactivity is also possible between eggs and poultry – a condition known as bird-egg syndrome. The symptoms are normally triggered by chicken eggs, rather than chicken itself. People affected by this syndrome experience allergic rhinitis, asthma and other respiratory problems every time they are exposed to down feathers.
Alpha-Gal. Alpha-gal, or galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, is an antibody naturally occurring in the system of all mammals except humans, apes and Old-World monkeys. This antibody tends to interact with carbohydrates contained in meat, which results in itching, rash, hives and swelling all over the body, as well as upset stomach. The symptoms may develop within three to eight hours of eating meat.
This condition is commonly known as mammalian meat allergy (MMA). In order to be diagnosed with mammalian meat allergy, a person needs to conduct a blood test that determines the number of alpha-gal antibodies in the blood stream. Traditional types of allergy testing used for the diagnosis of allergies to beef, pork and lamb are usually not able to detect MMA.
Some people believe that humans can be exposed to alpha-gal through various ticks, such as the lone start tick typical for the eastern and southern USA.