Notes from a Reader

A very informative note from a reader (published with their permission):

I just recently found your website after reading an online article about tick-related meat allergies.  You may have solved a 20-year-old allergy mystery I’ve had.  Although I had never previously experienced an allergic reaction to any food or medication, in approximately 1991 I began experiencing increasingly severe allergic reactions (primarily severe hives).  Eventually I was able to isolate the cause to fast food hamburgers, and I was further able to determine the problem was beef of any kind.  The unusual aspect of the allergic reactions was their delayed onset.  Hives would begin to appear exactly 6 hours after consuming beef.  And I do mean EXACTLY; I could virtually set a watch by symptom onset.  Before I was able to isolate the exact cause of my allergy, the reactions became severe enough to be considered life threatening, increasing in severity with each reaction until I was experiencing severe anaphylaxis.  Since isolating beef as the cause of my reactions, I was able to prevent further incidences by avoiding any food containing beef.  I could eat chicken and pork without problems.  Being an avid deer hunter, I also ate quite a bit of venison, without problems.

Approximately two years ago, suspecting my allergy was related to preservatives in beef products, I began testing my ability to consume “free-range” beef.  I found I could eat it without reaction.  I further tested my histamine system by sampling small amounts of commercial beef on up through fast food hamburgers, with no reaction.  Over the last year I have been freely eating beef with no problems, until a few weeks ago when I again had a 6-hour delayed allergic reaction (hives) to a fast-food hamburger.  Since that most recent reaction, I have stopped eating fast food beef.

Being an avid deer hunter, and actually working in the hunting industry (Consulting Wildlife Biologist), I am in the woods and fields of Tennessee and other Southeastern State almost daily.  Through the 1980s and ‘90s, I would experience tick bites on a regular basis; easily a dozen or more per year, with literally hundreds of chigger bites.  However, since the commercial availability of Permanone (Permethrin) insecticide, my tick/chigger bite numbers have declined dramatically.  My work clothing is fully sprayed with Permethrin before every field day.  I now probably receive only one or two tick bites and a dozen or more chigger bites per year.

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19 responses to “Notes from a Reader”

  1. astonehill12@nyc.rr.com says :

    This seems to be an atypical reaction — but I’ll leave that determination to the research staff. It did bring up a question for me. Should we protect ourselves from additional tick or chigger bites?

    • allergytomeat says :

      Yes, this reader is one of the few people we have heard from who experienced fewer/no symptoms after switching to free-range meat. In answer to your question, we believe that avoiding tick bites is the only thing that causes the blood level of the allergy to decline so it does seem prudent to attempt to avoid tick/chigger bites. Of course, exposing your skin to Permethrin has it’s own risks.

  2. David Hamilton says :

    This story is nearly identical to mine. Nearly 20 years ago, I started having reactions after eating large hamburgers or steaks. I went back and forth for years with ‘organic’ versus ‘not organic’… ‘no antibiotics’ versus ‘antibiotics’,… ‘free range’ etc… thinking I was figuring this thing out. Unfortunately, about 5 years ago, I started having reactions to organic, grass fed cattle, as well as bison and deer harvested from the wild. Simply put, it just got worse as I got older. Now that I am over 40 years old, I cannot even eat a chicken breast that is grilled beside a hamburger; the grease alone triggers a massive reaction. Even Rennet in European cheeses trigger a reaction. I hate ticks.

  3. Karen says :

    I am fairly new to this forum but have suffered with the allergy to beef for about 8 years now. My experience started with the ‘delayed’ reaction (about 4-6 hours after consumption) to a fast-food cheeseburger. It took me several weeks to figure out exactly what was causing this; since I had never heard of a beef allergy, it was hard for me to accept that beef was the culprit (I used to love a juicy cut of prime rib!). I am still skeptical that tick bites are the cause of this allergy, I lean more towards the beef additives (hormones, flavor-enhancers, coloring agents) as the reactant. Over the past 8 years I have accidentally slipped (just not thinking) and consumed something with beef in it and paid the price later on. The reactions seem to have become more severe and the effects longer-lasting. Even though I lean towards the additives to beef being the cause of my reactions, I won’t be testing that theory by attempting to eat any ‘organic’ beef – the result could be disastrous and definitely not worth it. It is somewhat comforting to know that I am not alone, now that word has gotten out that this condition really exists I feel more comfortable when explaining why I can’t eat beef (& get fewer weird looks).

    • My experience and consideration of Celiac-intoleration of gluten says :

      Last summer, 2011, I woke at 2:00 am with hives all over my body…there was hardly a clear spot on my body. I’m goind to attach a picture, and you don’t have to keep it…it’s very ugly! The hives lasted about four hours, and six Benadryl later. I know it was an overdose, but I was in agony! Of course, I had no idea of the problem. Of course it was beef, and the attack was four hours after eating it.

      About two weeks later, in the early evening, I started feeling the itching and soon hives appeared, only not nearly so severe. I took two Benadryl at the first sign of the itching, fearing the worst from the first hives attack. However, this time, I had an anaphylactic shock. My face and upper body began swelling and turning red. Eventually my tongue swelled out of my mouth and I could barely breathe. My son is an orthopedic surgeon and even though he lives out of state, he happened to be nearby. Before he and my husband could get me to the hospital, it was about 30-35 minutes. My son called ahead and arranged the ER to be ready. After more Benadryl and and EPI shot, et.al, it eventually subsided. THis time it was about three hours after eating the beef.

      I am on Weight Watchers and every day I log my food into my app and it calculates my points. Therefore, I could figure out what I had eaten both days. Both times it was a 1/2 Angus beef burger which comes from Walmart. I thought perhaps there was some chemical in the frozen patties and intended to call Walmart to inquire. However, before I could do that, I had about a 1/4 cup of ground beef in spaghetti sauce. This beef was home grown. Now I knew it was the beef itself. Also this time the attach was with hives, swelling, etc., but mostly in my feet. Again, at first sign of itching I took Benadryl. Then 30 minutes I took another. I went to the ER, but I could tell the attack was peaking and beginning to subside. This time it was about 2-3 hours after eating the beef.

      Now, I was really curious and I found one web site presented by a health journal web company and I think it was giving the source of the information from your research. After reading it, I remembered a terrible tick bite I’d received some time before the hive attack. It was so badly buried I could not get it out and had my husband help me. It was very difficult to remove. Then it was infected and itched for about two weeks. It was quite painful…for a tick bite.

      I have Celiac, an intolerance to gluten. I read one article about the tick-beef allergy mentioning high antibody levels. I wonder if the elevated antibodies due to Celiac could be relative. Of course, when I avoid gluten my antibodies should be normal, however, now and then I am contaminated and they will be elevated at that time, of course.

  4. Steve says :

    In 1995 I started experiencing anaphylactic shock episodes and finally narrowed it down to beef. My allergist did not believe me that the reaction was delayed by 6 hours and reported to my primary physician that I must have had a reaction to aspirin. My episodes seemed to happen more frequent if I had eaten beef at night or worse for lunch and dinner but none if I ate beef early in the day. I have never had a reaction to pork but did experience a reaction to lamb once. The most severe was after eating sausage that had beef “BY-products” whatever that would be? I recently had a minor episode that I could not like to any meat. I am curious to know if the time of day is an issue with anyone else. I did extensive research into this years ago but let it drop when I could not find any cases similar to mine on the web. I lived in a densly wooded are of northern Arkansas and tick and chigger bites are a way of life. I now live in Mexico in an area where there seem to be no ticks or chiggers. I wonder if being tested now would show an improved response?

  5. Rebecca says :

    I live in southern Illinois & developed an allergy to beef approx. 12 years ago. My reactions are delayed and severe. I cannot eat beef or anything that is cooked on a grill that has cooked beef on it. I have had a couple of episodes related to pork and lamb, but they have been few and far between, so I thought maybe the butcher cut the meat from the same blade that cut beef or something , but who knows? This is a very scary allergy to have!

  6. Steve says :

    I would like to compare notes: I have never had a reaction to pork but have reactions to beef and lamb. I can still eat beef and not have reaction if I eat it early in the day. I feel there is something going on during sleep. I have never had a reaction during the day. I awake in the middle of the night usally 2:00-3:00 with coughing and wheezing. The reactions are always after sleep. When I wake I am always itchinig too and if I scratch this seems to be what sets off the chain of events. My scalp tightens especially the back of my head. Hives start around my waist, under my arms, on the inner thighs and the tops of my feet. Upper lips swell. After having had a few bad tick bites where the bites were, appeared terrible raised whelps. I think after a reaction I remain super sensitive for a couple of days and can feel a slight wheezing. My reactions began in 1995 and I have had probably 30 during this time. Maybe 10 severe reactions, one which ended me up in an emergency room where the staff all came around to look at the red LOBSTER in the ER. My routine is to open up or chew about 6 benadryl capsules and have the epi pen handy if the reaction goes too far. I lived in Arkansas where every spring through fall tick and chigger bites are plentiful. My Allergist did the skin prick test and said I tested positive for pork, beef, dairy and chocolate. My mother reported that when I was a child I could not have cow’s milk.

    • Stephanie says :

      Oh, How I can relate! My allergy symptoms started July 1st 2011.. I remember my first attack like it was yesterday. I’m lucky after the 4th Doctor and 7 weeks I was told what I had the meat allergy. I’m waiting on my first alpha – gal test results, of course I asked for them for four months ago, the response from the Doctor,” you already know you have the allergy, why do you need the numbers?” I want to watch the numbers as they come down. I have not purposefully eaten beef, pork or lamb, but have been exposed to meat drippings while eating out. I’m feeling better as time goes on, but I’m concerned how to arm my self for tick season. I carry an army of medications and my epi pen, but I need to know how to dress, what to avoid, what sprays can I use that don’t have serious side effects. My cat came in last week with a tick on her, so the season has begun. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Oh, on another note, due to this allergy I’m now also allergic to my cats, dogs and horses. In fact I have 29 known allergies and not one is a food product except for the meat allergy. Can anyone relate? Thank you.

  7. Anne Stonehill says :

    I have also had welts with my “attacks.” Not all the time, but I think that’s because I immediately take meds. I also take benedryl. My allergist tells me to take only two but I used to take 6. Now I take the children’s benedryl which is a liquid and I feel that it works quicker. She’s also prescribed zyzal, which I take with the benedryl and 4 prednisone. I have the epipen for emergencies but since you’re supposed to call 911 immediately after sticking yourself, the two times I’ve had the most serious reactions, I’ve just called 911. I also often have a bowel movement at some point in the process. One of the EMT’s told me that was getting rid of the toxins. I also posted a question about dairy. I seem to tolerate full-fat dairy, but not low-fat No one else reported having that response.

  8. T.Moore says :

    I’ve had this for 7 years and today was tested for IgE Alpha-Gal. I work with 2 other people that have this same allergy as well. We all react 7 1/2 to 8 hours after we eat red meat. One of us cannot eat jello or marshmallows because of the gelatin. It’s too crazy to comprehend!

  9. R Hale says :

    I’ve had this allergy for 9 years now. It started out with beef products but progressed to pork about 2 years ago and all mammal meats soon after. About six months ago I had a reaction to milk. My symptoms range from hives and welts to severe anaphylaxis. I knew I had a beef allergy from just a self diagnosis during this time period before the alpha gal allergy was discovered. I tried free range beef, non commercial free range beef, free range bison (leanest of all mammal meats), and venison and still had reactions to all types of beef and the other meats. I live on a lake in Georgia and am an avid outdoorsman and try my hardest to avoid ticks and chiggers. It’s almost impossible but probably have anywhere from 5 to 25 bites a year still. I guess this is more geared toward research staff but how much do alpha gal levels increase or decrease in your system with more/less bites and is this level proportionate to the level of the mammal meat (fat content) you can consume or are you always allergic to a certain meat once you’ve reached that level of allergic reaction.

  10. Tom Kimball says :

    Well, this is one club I really didn’t want to join buy glad I found you. I too have been questioned about reactions to meat and like most of you, they are horrible to deal with. Have been guessing now for 5 years. Most recent reactions have become more severe. Easter Sunday was 2 small pork sausages and it nearly killed me. Now that I know what to stay away from the
    blood test is next to confirm. Like Mr. Hale, I’m an avid outdoorman. mushrooming in the spring, hunting in the fall, etc. Please let this be a lesson to others to take precautions when heading out to the woods. My allergist knew of the alpha-gal / tick allergy but dismissed it for me because I live outside the VA, TN, NC area and he’s not seen it in WI. Finally I’m the first for ‘something’. Will monitor my diet, keep the epipen handy watch this site for updates. What a relief to finally know what the link / cause may be.

  11. Amy Hall says :

    I don’t even try to eat any red meat. I do eat marshmallows and some cheese, although I have cut down on dairy products for other reasons. I haven’t had a reaction in 2 years. I would be afraid of having a relapse and so its not worth the risk. I am getting B12 injections and taking supplements as well. I highly recommend them if you have this. It will make your life better. B12 deficiency can cause Premature ventricle contractions. A bummer if you are trying to pass a work physical.

  12. website says :

    The design for your site is a little bit off in Epiphany. Even So I like your site. I may need to use a normal browser just to enjoy it.

  13. Roy says :

    I want to try deer again, but I am so worried about what will happen.

  14. Jill Harman says :

    I am 70, female, living in Georgia. I am rarely outside but I do remember a terrible tick bite on my side last May. In June I started hives and after six episodes on Aug 4th I went into anaphylactic shock. After blood test confirmed I have avoided all beef, lamb, pork and have had no other episodes. I want to have a shingles vaccination as recommended for my age group but it cotains gelatin. I have had a couple of marshmallows without a problem. Have any of you with this allergy had the shingles vaccination?

  15. Marcus Nash says :

    This story was actually very similar to mine. My reactions started in the late 90’s. I eventually associated it with beef and started to test similar theories. I was able to eat organic grass fed steaks without a problem. My family and I concluded that it must be some sort of dye, preservative, hormone… something that was being added to the mix. I often joked that it “wasn’t the cow’s fault”. But over time it expanded to pork, lamb, bison, venison and even the organic grass fed minimally processed stuff. I had to give it all up. But I can have very small amounts without a problem still. I can eat the pork casings in chicken sausage and other such cross contamination is okay. But my hives got worse with every outbreak and eventually started causing me to have trouble breathing.

  16. PJ says :

    I discovered my allergy 2 years ago, and like many others, it took several hamburgers and other ground beef meals to determine that beef was the cause. Stomach pain started immediately after eating, and hives began 4 hours later. I live in South Carolina, am in the woods often and average several tick bites each year. More often, I get red bugs (chiggers). When I first found thru the internet that ticks were related, I didn’t remember any recent tick bites, but I had recently gotten some significant red bug bites, and thru your site, I know they also can be a culprit. Like others, I suspected antibiotics and other additives. For 2 years, I’ve avoided beef, but have been able to eat venison, pork and bison with no trouble. HOWEVER, I recently received over 100 red bug bites as well as a few seed tick bites in one afternoon, and now I cannot eat pork. A small amount of ham last night led to the most severe reaction yet. Onset went from 4 hours to 2. Hives were horrible, and I had chest pain for the first time with this – that scared me! I got online and saw where chest pain can happen with hives. Pain came in sharp stabs, above my stomach in the center of my chest. 4 benadryl and 4 hours later, pain and hives eased enough to sleep. I will religiously use insect repellant to avoid both bites in the future. Hopefully, I’ll become less allergic over time.

    ONE THING I DISCOVERED – KRISPY KREME DOUGHNUTS are fried in beef tallow!!! I never would have suspected that until I ate some. Only 2 regular doughnuts gave me the usual stomach pain, and hives 4 hours later. So if you have symptoms and haven’t eaten red meat, it could be tallow or lard.

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