The Community Voice has teamed up with a local resident to learn more about how a food allergy caused from a tick bite is affecting people in the community.
Voice Assistant Editor Anna Buckman provided in-depth cover about alpha-gal in November 2019. Since then, the Voice has received comments from numerous local residents whose lives have been altered because of the allergy.
Alpha-gal syndrome is a red meat allergy that affects some people who are bitten by a Lone Star tick. While symptoms vary, victims usually must avoid eating mammal products such as beef and pork and often cannot consume any dairy products.
Exposure can cause a person to go into anaphylactic shock and be life-threatening.
Not eating mammal products is only part of the affect, however. Many products, from shampoos and makeup to gel capsules, contain byproducts from mammals and those products can also cause allergic reactions.
In addition, some sufferers have allergic reactions from the smell of meat cooking.
Shannon Sexton, owner of Stateline Steel, was recently diagnosed with alpha-gal. When she was told by a medical professional that she tested positive, she was simply told, “Don’t eat anything from a hoofed animal.” She researched the allergy herself and discovered that she should carry an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen).
“While trying to navigate this overwhelming diagnosis, I realized just how little is known about alpha-gal and how many people actually have it,” Sexton said. “While no two victims have the same reactions or symptoms, we all struggle daily trying to find some sense of normalcy. What does not affect us today, could cause us to have anaphylaxis tomorrow.”
Sexton said she wants to reach out to others who are suffering from this allergy and developed a survey to learn more about how people are being affected and how they can be helped.
“My goal is to show the need for more education about alpha-gal in the medical community, reach out to legislators in hopes of creating education and prevention programs, help guide local restaurants on offering alpha-gal friendly food and creating a local support group where we can share information, products and recipes,” Sexton said.
The survey includes 10 questions and can be found online at surveymonkey.com/r/VJG6NH8.