Every year, ticks are the source of illness for many humans and animals across the USA. Although tiny, the toxins that ticks inject into the bloodstream can have a huge and lasting impact on the health of those unfortunate enough to be bitten by them.
The most well-known health issue caused by ticks is Lyme's disease. However, scientists have recently discovered a tick-related disease called alpha-gal syndrome. If you or a loved one suspect that you may have developed alpha-gal syndrome, then here are the answers to four of the most commonly asked questions.
1. How do ticks cause alpha-gal syndrome?
Alpha-gal syndrome is caused by a sugar molecule that is transmitted into the bloodstream when a tick bites a human. Most frequently, it's caused by Lone Star ticks, which are found in an ever-increasing number of US states. For some people, this molecule can trigger an irregular immune reaction that develops into an allergic reaction to red meat and other food products derived from mammals such as dairy products.
2. What are the symptoms of alpha-gal syndrome?
Many of the symptoms of alpha-gal syndrome are similar to other kinds of allergic reactions. These include skin irritation, swelling of the mucous membranes, itchiness, and gastrointestinal upset. The symptoms can be mild through to severe. In some cases, it can lead to anaphylaxis, which is a very severe and potentially deadly health emergency. Severe reactions are often found in people who have been exposed to tick bites more than once or who have a history of allergic reactions.
3. Is there a cure for alpha-gal syndrome?
Unfortunately, at present, there is no cure for this syndrome. The symptoms can only be avoided by not eating red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb, and avoiding dairy products that are known triggers for an allergic reaction. Once diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome, it's highly recommended that a sufferer carries an epinephrine injector in case anaphylaxis should occur.
4. What do you do if you suspect you have alpha-gal syndrome?
If you suspect that you may have this syndrome, it's vital that you seek help from your regular doctor. They will then most likely refer you to an immunologist or allergist for the diagnostic testing that will confirm the presence of alpha-gal molecules in the bloodstream. These specialists will also organize for you to carry epinephrine in case of anaphylaxis and to develop an emergency response plan for suspected allergic reactions.
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