Beef Allergy

Table of Contents


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

A beef allergy is an adverse reaction to eating red meat or after exposure to other products containing alpha-gal. 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 allergic reaction 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. They can be mild or severe. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of a beef allergy

Beef Allergy Symptoms

  • Hives, itching, or beef allergy rash
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat, or other body parts
  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Anaphylaxis

Some medications also contain alpha-gal. So, if you experience symptoms of a beef allergy 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. You should also consult with a food allergy doctor for a beef allergy food list.

Beef Allergy Diagnosis

Beef allergy can be difficult to diagnose. You may need a food challenge or elimination diet. A food challenge involves consuming beef in a safe, clinical setting while an allergist watches for a reaction. An elimination diet means removing beef from your diet for a couple of weeks to see if symptoms subside.

This allergy can also be diagnosed with a blood test. An allergy blood test can measure the amount of alpha-gal antibodies in your blood. This test is more accurate than other methods of beef allergy testing, but it can take several days to get your results. During this time, it’s best to avoid beef allergy foods.

Beef Allergy Treatment

There is not a cure for beef allergies; however, you can possibly prevent a beef allergy reaction. Start by protecting yourself from tick bites. When outdoors, 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 beef allergy sensitivity, 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 beef allergy reaction.

For a beef allergy diagnosis and other allergy care, contact a board-certified allergist. At NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, all of our physicians have extensive experience in allergy, immunology, sinus, and asthma care. We offer convenient allergy and sinus clinics throughout Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Our allergists are available six days a week. Call (212) 686-6321 to book your appointment today!

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