Skip to main content

Alpha-Gal Syndrome

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 5, 2024.

What is alpha-gal syndrome (AGS)?

AGS is an allergic reaction to red meat or certain animal products. Alpha-gal is a type of sugar found in red meat, such as beef, pork, lamb, and venison. Animal products such as milk, or gelatin made from beef, also contain alpha-gal. Alpha-gal is not found in fish, birds, or other non-mammal animals. AGS develops after a tick bite, usually from a lone star tick. Allergic reactions range from mild to severe. The most severe reaction is anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a sudden, life-threatening reaction that needs immediate treatment.

What are the signs and symptoms of AGS?

You may have an allergic reaction to some items that contain alpha-gal but not to others. You may not have a reaction every time you are exposed to alpha-gal. Any signs or symptoms that do develop usually begin 2 to 6 hours after exposure. You may be woken by an allergic reaction if you were exposed within 6 hours of going to sleep. The following are common reactions that may develop:

How is AGS diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms after you eat or are exposed to alpha-gal. Your provider will ask how long it takes for symptoms to appear and how long they last. Your provider will also ask about the amount that triggers symptoms. You may need to keep a diary to write down everything you are exposed to and any symptoms that develop. Your provider may recommend any of the following to confirm or rule out AGS:

How is AGS treated?

AGS cannot be cured, but symptoms may get less severe or stop. This can take 8 months to 5 years. Until then, you will need to avoid being exposed to anything that triggers a reaction. You may need to see specialists, such as an allergist or dietitian, for ongoing care. The following medicines may be needed to manage allergic reactions:

What can I do to manage or prevent AGS?

Have someone call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2024 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.