The researchers think the problem is becoming more common, although there were study participants who said they have had the allergy for more than 30 years, Commins said.
And the study results "show clearly that physicians should keep this diagnosis in mind even in the pediatric population, especially if the history is consistent with the disease syndrome, including delayed symptoms after ingestion of beef, pork, lamb or even milk," the researchers wrote.
No current remedy exists, Commins said, "but the allergy does seem to fade over time so it is unlikely to be lifelong."
Another expert discussed the study's implications.
"This is an important phenomenon to be aware of when evaluating children who present with delayed allergic reactions as opposed to more classic reactions that occur within five to 30 minutes after exposure to an allergen," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Symptoms can include hives, a change in voice or difficulty swallowing associated with throat swelling after eating a hamburger or a hot dog."
The message for parents is clear: "If your child get hives or a rash without any explanation, try to determine what they ate within the past three to six hours, and if it was beef, lamb or pork, you should consult an allergist, especially if your family spends a lot of time outside in areas often inhabited by ticks," Glatter said. "In children living in areas where the Lone Star tick is common, the alpha-gal syndrome should be considered a prime suspect."
Dr. Artemio Jongco, an allergist at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., emphasized that a reaction might require emergency care.
People who develop this allergy may need shots of epinephrine as well as observation in the emergency room, including treatment with an
All rights reserved