Many people have allergies. However, an allergy to meat, especially pork, is quite rare. A pork allergy is a type one or contact allergy. Some people who are allergic to pork are allergic to the meat itself. However, many are not actually allergic to the pork, but to the chemicals used in processing it. Food allergies in general are rare, only 1% of the world suffers from actual food allergies; the rest suffers from allergies caused by the chemicals in the food.
For those allergic to the actual pork meat, the symptoms are caused by the body’s immune system overreacting to the proteins found in the meat. The body sees these proteins as dangerous and attacks them by releasing histamines. When large amounts of histamines are released throughout the body, one can go into anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock can cause death. Scientists have no understanding why some people are allergic to certain foods and can offer no cure to the allergy. Like all food allergies, symptoms can range from mild to life threatening depending on the severity of the individual’s allergy. Symptoms can occur immediately or may not appear for several hours after eating or coming in contact with the meat.
As allergies to meat are very rare, it is more common that the chemicals and preservatives found in the meat are causing the allergic reaction. Chemicals like Papain or Casein are more often than not the culprit of the allergy. This is true of the majority of food allergies, the chemicals in the food is the source of the reaction, not the food itself. An allergy to penicillin can also be triggered by eating meat, if the animal was treated with antibiotics right before it was slaughtered.
For those extremely allergic to pork, cross contamination is something they need to be on constant watch for. Much like those with nut allergies, care should be taken when getting meats from a factory that also processes pork. Unfortunately, for those with pork allergies, due to it being so rare, it is not something that is posted on food packages like they do for the more common allergies. One sure fire way to avoid cross contamination is by shopping at a Jewish or Muslim butcher shop, as neither of these religions eat pork. Look for food labeled either “kosher” or “halaal”. These mean that the food contains no pork whatsoever and should not have suffered any cross contamination at all.
Those with severe pork allergies should also beware of foods made with lard or gelatin. Pork lard is occasionally used in baking and pork gelatin is actually fairly common. Foods such as marshmallows, candies, ice cream and Jell-O generally contain pork gelatin. Look for foods that contain kosher or halaal gelatin or that are vegan friendly. Many vaccines, particularly flu vaccines, contain pork gelatin.
Like anything, symptoms vary from person to person and depend on how severe the allergy is and how much pork was consumed or come in to contact with. Some possible symptoms are: asthma attack with shortness of breath and wheezing, skin rash and hives, stomach pain and cramping, diarrhea and vomiting, headache, runny nose and sneezing, swelling of face or joints and sudden increase in temperature. The most dangerous symptom is going into severe anaphylactic shock as this could cause death.
For those who suffer from a non-life threatening pork allergy, there are a few things that can be taken to help reduce sensitivity. The use of Quercitin, Vitamin A, Iron,
L-Carnitine or Eucalyptus oils can be a big help.
When someone has an allergy reaction, there are a few things that can be done to help:
- An antihistamine helps stop the production of histamines.
- An asthma rescue inhaler helps with shortness of breath and wheezing that can occur.
- An injection of adrenalin can be given to help stop anaphylactic shock.
- If the reaction is severe, the person should be taken to the hospital immediately.
Sadly, there is no cure for food allergies. The only thing someone with a food allergy can do, is to try their best to avoid any contact with the food and be very careful with everything they consume. They should always read labels carefully and watch for chances of cross contamination. For those with a rare food allergy, like pork, this is far harder, so constant vigilance is the key. Be prepared and always let those around you know of your allergy and what to do if you have a severe reaction. When traveling, be sure you know where the nearest hospital is. Being aware and prepared could be the difference between life and death.