A perfect example of why you should never forget to put permethrin on your clothes was recently brought to my attention. One of my coworkers, a geologist in his late forties, had recently developed a moderately severe allergy to red meats. It had started a couple months after he began work down here, and had never been an issue at all previously in his life.

It started with steaks and hamburgers. He would eat one and 3-6 hours later would come down with hives, intense itching, rashes and at some times shortness of breath and lung constriction. After several episodes, he determined it was the steak and burgers that were inducing the reactions. Now at this point he could still consume pig products and certain other leaner red meats. Yet as the months dragged on, one by one different meats began yielding the same allergic reactions. Ham…bacon….lamb…..venison. They all eventually came off the menu.

During this time, he had noticed that chicken, turkey and fish did not yield the same reaction, and so they slowly became the main source of protein for his diet.

Busty redheads always have the answers

The underlying cause and sudden onset of this rather severe allergy still being unknown, he simply avoided red meat. Every once in a while he would try a piece here or accidentally ingest a piece there, and everytime it would yield stronger effects.

Several weeks ago after a routine workout he made his normal whey protein shake like he had been doing for years. Unfortunately, this too eventually led to the same allergic reaction several hours later. At this point, somewhat serendipitously (but also out of concern for his health), his wife stumbled upon a bizarre article relating southeastern US (Carolinas, Virginia, etc) tick bites to sudden onset meat allergies. After hearing this from him I found some articles online describing this documented condition as something called an Alpha-Gal allergy.

A link from the article’s frequently asked questions page sums it up nicely:

“When certain people are bitten by ticks or chiggers, the bite appears to set off a chain of reactions in the body.  One of these reactions is the production of an allergic class of antibody that binds to a carbohydrate present on meat called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, also known as alpha-gal.

Galactose-Alpha 1,3 Galactose…..the Vin Diesel of the carbohydrate class antibodies.

When a person with the alpha-gal antibody eats mammalian meat, the meat triggers the release of histamine.  Histamine is a compound found in the body that causes allergic symptoms like hives, itching and, in the worst case, anaphylaxis (a reaction that leads to sudden weakness, swelling of the throat, lips and tongue, difficulty breathing and/or unconsciousness).

This allergy is different from other food allergies like peanut allergy in that the response is delayed.  Unlike someone with a peanut allergy who has an immediate reaction when they eat a peanut, people with the alpha-gal allergy do not start having symptoms until several hours after they eat meat.

“Hmmmm….maybe that 72oz steak challenge wasn’t a good idea…”

What exactly is mammalian meat?

Mammalian meat is any meat that comes from a mammal.  This includes beef, pork, lamb, venison, goat and bison.  Chicken, turkey and fish are not mammals and therefore do not have alpha-gal.”

Source: http://allergytomeat.wordpress.com

Beef….it’s what’s causing your anaphylaxis.

At this time, the condition is permanent, with only anecdotal evidence suggesting a decreased sensitivity over time (which includes avoidance of meat and more tick bites.) The allergic reaction has also been known to be triggered by certain dairy products, products in contact with mammalian red meat, gelatin based products (gelcap medications, candies etc) and whey protein powders.

My coworker has not been to the southeastern US in years, and has only had one tick bite in the last several years, occurring here in Nicaragua, weeks before initial symptoms began occurring. Like many others, he reported this tick bite to be unusually itchy compared to previous tick bites in his life.

So what’s the bottom line? Well, in some respects it could be a blessing in disguise. Eliminating all red meats from a diet and replacing them with fish and chicken would be in near universal agreement as a healthier dietary lifestyle, yet the physical obligation to abstain from those foods is certainly undesired. Anti-histamines lessen the symptoms, but from what he says they sound pretty horrific even despite the sweet bliss of a serious Benadryl buzz.

So remember kids, unless you want nature to force you to be a steadfast vegetarian, don’t forget your damn permethrin.

Look at it….look at the horror so you never forget your Permethrin…

 

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