Health care providers can diagnose alpha-gal syndrome based on your personal history and certain medical tests.

Your health care provider will likely ask you:

  • Whether you've gotten tick bites or you've gone to places where ticks live.
  • What symptoms you have.
  • How long it took for the symptoms to start after you ate red meat or certain other foods such as mammal food products.

Your provider also might give you a physical exam.

Other tests used to diagnose alpha-gal syndrome may include:

  • A blood test. A blood test can confirm and measure the amount of alpha-gal antibodies in your bloodstream. This is the key test for diagnosis of alpha-gal syndrome.
  • A skin test. A health care provider pricks your skin and exposes it to small amounts of substances taken from commercial or fresh red meat. If you're allergic, you get a raised bump called a hive at the test site on your skin. Your provider or allergist also may test your skin for an allergic reaction to certain types of red meat. That's because there are different kinds of allergies to meat.

More Information


Alpha-gal syndrome treatment involves avoiding the foods that cause your reaction. Always check the ingredient labels on store-bought foods. Make sure they don't have red meat or meat-based ingredients, such as:

  • Beef.
  • Pork.
  • Lamb.
  • Organ meats.
  • Gelatins.

Check soup stock cubes, gravy packages and flavor ingredients in prepackaged products. Ask your health care provider or allergist for a list of foods to avoid, including meat extracts used in flavoring. The names of some meat-based ingredients make them easy to miss.

Be extra careful when you eat at restaurants and social get-togethers. Many people don't understand how serious an allergic food reaction can be. And few people know that meat allergies exist. Even a small amount of red meat can cause a serious reaction.

If you're worried that a food may contain something you're allergic to, don't try it. Do what you can to lower your risk. For example, you could bring your own food to a party if guests are making food on a shared cooking surface.

For a serious allergic reaction, you may need a shot of epinephrine and emergency care. Many people with allergies carry a device called an epinephrine auto-injector. It's a syringe and concealed needle that injects a single dose of medication when you press it against your thigh. If you've been diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome, your doctor or allergist likely will prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector.

Symptoms of alpha-gal syndrome may lessen or even disappear over time. This is especially true if you don't get any more bites from ticks that carry alpha-gal. Some people with this condition can eat mammal food products again after 1 to 2 years if they don't get any more tick bites.

Preparing for your appointment

To get the most from your appointment, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here are some tips to help you talk with your health care provider.

  • Write down your symptoms. Be ready to tell your provider what happened after you ate red meat. Include how long it took for a reaction to happen. Be prepared to describe the type and amount of red meat you ate.
  • Make notes if you've had tick bites or you've spent time in places where ticks may live. Your provider will likely want to know where you've spent time outdoors and how often. Your provider also will likely want to know how many tick bites you think you've gotten.
  • Make a list of all medications you're taking. Include vitamins or supplements.
  • Take a family member or friend along if you can. Sometimes it can be hard to recall all the information your provider gives you during an appointment. Someone who comes with you may remember something you missed or forgot.
  • Write down any questions you have.

Some basic questions to ask your provider include:

  • Are my symptoms likely caused by a red meat allergy?
  • What else might be causing my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need?
  • What's the best treatment?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Is there a generic version of the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you suggest?
  • Do I need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector?

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider will probably ask you questions, such as:

  • When did you begin noticing symptoms?
  • What type of meat did you eat and how much did you have before your symptoms started?
  • After you ate red meat, how long did it take your symptoms to appear?
  • Have you spent time outdoors in places where ticks live?
  • Have you been bitten by a tick in the past? How many times? What did the tick look like?
  • Did you take any allergy medicines that you can get without a prescription, such as antihistamines? If so, did they help?
  • Does red meat seem to trigger your symptoms? Do you get symptoms when you eat any other foods?
  • How bad are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to make your symptoms worse?

What you can do in the meantime

If you think you have alpha-gal syndrome, avoid eating red meat until your appointment. If you have a serious reaction, get emergency help.

Nov. 15, 2022
  1. Steinke JW, et al. The alpha-gal story: Lessons learned from connecting the dots. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2015;135:589.
  2. Platts-Mills TA, et al. The discovery of IgE 50 years later. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2016;116:179.
  3. Platts-Mills TA, et al. IgE in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic disease. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2016;137:1662.
  4. Commins SP. Allergy to meats. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 25, 2020.
  5. Li JT (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 3, 2018.
  6. Meat allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/meat-allergy. Accessed April 13, 2018.
  7. Carter MC, et al. Identification of alpha-gal sensitivity in patients with a diagnosis of idiopathic anaphylaxis. Allergy. 2017; doi:10.1111/all.13366.
  8. Lone Star tick a concern, but not for Lyme disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/stari/disease/index.html. Accessed April 13, 2018.
  9. Preventing tick bites. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html. Accessed April 13, 2018.
  10. Berg EA, et al. Drug allergens and food—the cetuximab and galactose-α-1,3-galactose story. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 2014;112:97.
  11. Anaphylaxis. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/anaphylaxis. Accessed May 20, 2018.
  12. Sicherer SH. Management of food allergy: Avoidance. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 25, 2020.
  13. Alpha-gal allergy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/alpha-gal/index.html. Accessed June 2, 2020.
  14. Alpha-gal and red meat allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/alpha-gal. Accessed June 2, 2020.
  15. AskMayoExpert. Food Allergy. Mayo Clinic; 2020.
  16. Platts-Mills T, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Patients with the α-Gal Syndrome. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2020; doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2019.09.017. Accessed Oct. 19, 2022.