Meat allergy includes beef, lamb, pork, or meat from any other mammal – even whale and seal. While we do not definitively know the number of people in the U.S. affected by meat allergy, we do know that meat allergy is uncommon.

Similar allergies include poultry allergy, such as chicken, turkey, and duck.

A meat allergy can develop any time in life. If you are allergic to one type of meat, there is a high risk that you may be allergic to other meats or poultry.

Studies have found that a small percentage of children with milk allergy are also allergic to beef. Talk with your allergist to see if you should remove beef from your milk-allergic child’s diet.

Symptoms of meat allergy can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Stuffy/runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • A severe allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis, which starts rapidly and may cause death.

If you suspect a meat allergy, consult with an allergist, who can evaluate your medical history and conduct tests, which could include an oral food challenge, prior to providing a diagnosis.

Treatment for meat allergy includes:

  • Strict avoidance of the meat or poultry
  • Medicines to treat symptoms may be prescribed, such as epinephrine auto-injector and antihistamines.

It is important to note that while antihistamine may relieve some allergic symptoms, it is not an appropriate substitute for epinephrine, which is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

On an interesting note, recent studies have shown that many people who had hives or anaphylaxis three to four hours after eating red meat had also experienced at least one tick bite in their lifetime. In some people, a tick bite can lead to an adverse skin reaction that leads the body to produce alpha gal, a sugar which is also found in red meat. Those who have this antibody then react when they eat meat.

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