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Robert Valet MD

Nashville Allergist -- Alpha-gal Allergy: It's Un-American!

We hope everyone has had a happy Memorial Day! For those of us who connect the summertime holidays with firing up the barbecue, let's talk about a medical condition we hope you never develop: alpha-gal allergy.

In this unusual food allergy, patients become sensitized to the carbohydrate group galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose ("alpha-gal") due to bites from lone star ticks (the tick has the carbohydrate in its gut and introduces it into the skin of those it bites). Because alpha gal is also found in red meat, patients can then develop allergic reactions after eating red meat. 

Symptoms can include hives, swelling, respiratory difficultly, and GI upset, typically 3-6 hours following red meat consumption. Because this unusual allergy is to a carbohydrate that has slow and variable GI absorption, sometimes symptoms may not occur with small amounts of red meat consumption, making diagnosis more challenging. I enjoy caring for patients with this condition and have been featured in local and national media for my expertise (google "Robert Valet MD alpha gal allergy"), and would be happy to evaluate you if you are concerned about this condition.

Once diagnosed, treatment consists of avoidance of red meat, and more importantly, of additional lone star tick bites, which increase levels of antibodies to alpha gal and may help this allergy to persist. Ticks like to hang out on tall brush and drop off onto passing animals and people, so be careful in brush and inspect for ticks immediately upon returning indoors. 

An allergy to holiday barbecue can become reality for those who have been bitten by lone star ticks

An allergy to holiday barbecue can become reality for those who have been bitten by lone star ticks

Nashville Allergist -- It's Poison Ivy Season!

It's been a wet growing season in Nashville and plant growth is lush, including undesirables! I noticed a nice crop of poison ivy at the edges of the grass at the baseball fields this past weekend, featured in the attached video. See if you can hear our son closely paying attention to my points on recognizing poison ivy!

Recognizing Poison Ivy Traceside Dermatology and Allergy Robert Valet MD

Apart from usual ways of being exposed (walking through brush, pulling weeds), two particularly bad exposures include weed wacking (and spraying your legs with poison ivy juice) and fires (even in winter; poison ivy vines also contain the oil and can be present on logs that you may be burning). If you are exposed, washing with soap and water right away can help remove the oils before you react to them.

If you are among the 90% of us who react to poison ivy, the small bumpy itchy red rash can be soothed somewhat with OTC topicals including cortisone and calamine, but for more severe cases, long courses of systemic steroids are needed. Another case of prevention being the best cure!