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The immune system, the body’s defense system that protects us from foreign intruders like bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and other potentially harmful organisms, sometimes reacts strongly to harmless substances like pet dander, pollen or certain food

What is an allergic reaction and what are the symptoms of it?

There are many different types of allergies and different symptoms accompany them. Allergy symptoms can range from a rash to life threatening anaphylactic reactions. Rashes are common with allergies to certain foods that can cause a rash or hives all over the body or with contact allergies to e.g. certain metals that cause a rash where the metal object had direct contact to the skin.

A sun allergy, where a rash develops in response to sun exposure of skin that is unaccustomed to the sun, is a special form of a contact allergy. This allergy is easily recognizable as the rash excludes any skin that was covered by clothing. Pollen and other inhaled allergens like pet dander can cause itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing, or in severe cases asthma attacks.

An anaphylaxis is the most extreme form of an allergic reaction and can be fatal. During an anaphylactic reaction the immune system in the entire body goes into alarm and large amounts of chemical messenger molecules are released. This can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Additionally, the airways can swell to the point the breathing is impossible. Anaphylactic reactions are common in sensitive people after they inhaled the allergen, or if an allergen is injected like e.g. if it’s in a vaccine. Anaphylaxis can also happen as a severe form of food allergy.

Are allergic reactions to meat getting more common?

Over the course of the last decades, allergies in general have been getting more and more common in industrialized nations. We are used to hearing about allergies to pollen, pet dander, or food items like milk, eggs, peanuts, or shellfish, however, allergies to certain meats or meat in general, while less common, seem to be also on the rise.

What can cause allergic reactions when eating meats or meat products?

Allergic reactions to processed meat products can be caused by other ingredients than meat. Many processed meat products for example can contain milk or eggs. In breaded products like chicken nuggets these can be used to keep the breading from falling off. Since allergies to milk or eggs are quite common allergic reactions to these types of meat products are not uncommon either. Gluten, which is a protein found in wheat and other grains can also cause severe allergies, and it is frequently found in processed meat products. However, these reactions are not truly allergies that are caused by meat. Patients with allergies to milk, eggs or gluten should read the ingredient list of processed meat products very carefully to avoid accidentally ingesting substances that can cause serious allergic problems.

Some people are truly allergic to the meat itself. This allergy can be caused either by just one specific kind of meat, like e.g. some people are sensitive to beef, but not to poultry, or it can affect any kind of meat. It is not completely clear what substance in the meat causes the allergies, but a recent research paper was able to shed at least some light on this mystery. This study also found evidence that meat allergies might be much more common than previously thought.

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