Beef Allergy

What Is A Beef Allergy (Alpha-Gal Syndrome)?

Beef allergies are becoming more common in the U.S. and other parts of the world. This allergy is related to alpha-gal, a carbohydrate found in mammalian cell membranes. Because of this, a beef allergy is also called alpha-gal syndrome. This allergy can be caused by Lone Star ticks. A bite from this tick has caused many people to develop an allergy to beef.

A food coloring allergy can also explain an allergy to beef. Some people show reactions to carmine, the main dye found in red meat. A typical allergic reaction to beef or alpha-gal has a delayed onset. Most symptoms occur 3-8 hours after consumption, which has made the allergy hard to diagnose.

Symptoms of a beef allergy include:

  • Hives, itching, or scaly skin
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other body parts
  • A runny nose and sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction

Some medications also contain alpha-gal. So, if you experience the above symptoms after eating beef, you may need to avoid medications with alpha-gal epitopes.

Medications that include alpha-gal epitopes:

  • Cetuximab, used in chemotherapy
  • Crotalidae antivenom, used to treat snake bites
  • Equine antivenom, used to treat snake bites
  • Infliximab, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
  • For a full list of medications that include alpha-gal epitopes, contact your pharmacy.

Diagnosing A Beef Allergy

A blood test can best diagnose this allergy. An allergy blood test can measure the amount of alpha-gal antibodies in your blood. This test is more accurate than other allergy tests, but it can take several days to get your results. During this time, refrain from eating beef.

Beef Allergy Treatment

There isn’t a cure for food allergies; however, you can possibly prevent a beef allergy. Start by protecting yourself from tick bites. When outside, use tick repellent. Also, wear long sleeves while hiking in rural areas where Lone Star ticks are present. They can be found in the southeastern part of New York.

To treat your symptoms related to this allergy, ask an allergist about the best medications for your condition. For most severe food allergies, an epinephrine injection needs to be prescribed to treat possible anaphylaxis. Your allergist will teach you to use an Epipen or Auvi-Q. You should carry this with you in the event of a severe allergic reaction.


For a beef allergy diagnosis and other allergy care, contact a board certified allergist. At NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, all of our physicians are board certified with extensive experience in allergy, immunology, sinus, and asthma care. We offer six convenient allergy and sinus clinics throughout Manhattan and Queens. Our allergists are available six days a week. Call (718) 416-0207 to book your appointment today!

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