What is Alpha Gal and How Does It Impact Hunters?
We’ve all heard horror stories about tick-borne illnesses. Lyme Disease is currently the most common vector-borne illness in the United States, with nearly 30,000 cases reported each year. As hunters, we keep this in the back of our mind as we hike through the woods, and undoubtedly come into contact with these parasites on a regular basis. Just like the disease itself, the awareness of Lyme disease has spread, and hunters have taken action to prevent or at least limit their contact with ticks, through the use of chemical methods such as DEET, a common chemical found in brands such as OFF, Picaridin, a common chemical found in brands like Repel, and Permethrin.While the rise in awareness of Lyme Disease is great, and continued preventative steps should be taken, there is another tick-borne illness that doesn’t get as much publicity, however the long-term effects might be just as nightmarish as Lyme. That illness is Alpha-gal Syndrome, or AGS.
What is Alpha-gal Syndrome?
Alpha-gal Syndrome is essentially a potentially fatal allergic reaction to the sugar molecule galactose-a-1, 3-galactose, or Alpha-gal, as it is more commonly referred to as. This molecule is found in most red meat, such as beef, venison, lamb, as well as pork. Studies have shown that this molecule can also be found in dairy products such as milk and cheese, and can even be linked to gelatin, which often coats medication.
The symptoms of Alpha-gal are often severe. These symptoms can include shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting, and even anaphylaxis, which is extremely life-threatening and requires emergency medical care.Typically, symptoms will start to appear 3-6 hours after consuming red meat or dairy products. While symptoms may vary from person to person, all cases are potentially life-threatening and if suspected should be brought to the attention of a doctor for diagnoses.
A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)
Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.
And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.