Deer protein allergies are caused by an immune reaction. The immune system creates antibodies to the deer proteins, and reacts as it would to an invading disease agent by releasing histamines and white blood cells. Reactions can be mild (similar to hay fever) or severe (anaphylaxis, a condition that can cause death as the airway swells closed and the body goes into shock). To develop an allergy, you must be exposed to the deer. People who raise deer, hunt and butcher deer, or are otherwise in close contact with deer may become sensitive to deer proteins.
Dander is the most common exposure risk for allergies. Dander is the skin and fur routinely shed by animals. It can be inhaled during exposure to the animal or to anything that has been in contact with the animal. Inhaling dander causes symptoms similar to respiratory infection in an allergic person. Symptoms include runny nose, sneezing and coughing, sinus congestion, eye irritation, and general discomfort. It is extremely rare for a dander allergy to trigger anaphylactic shock.
Deer Fluids and Fur
Allergies to body fluids can be more serious than allergies to dander. These allergies are triggered by contact with fluids, especially saliva and musk, and sometimes urine and manure. Animals spread saliva and musk into their fur while grooming. Touching the animal's fur or hide causes an epidermal reaction, including itching, swelling and hives. Severe cases may include a rash with open welts or blisters. Respiratory symptoms can also occur. Anaphylaxis is rare.
Deer Serum Allergies
Deer protein allergies triggered by internal body fluids and meat are the most severe. In these allergies, proteins in the deer's blood and flesh cause an immune reaction. Ingesting these proteins can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, including flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, general inflammation, hives, and respiratory distress. Anaphylactic shock is most likely with these allergies, as the proteins are distributed systemically throughout the body.
Fallow Deer and Horse Allergies
Cross-reactivity is when sensitization to one protein causes an allergy to a related protein. Proteins from some species of deer cross-react in people who are allergic to various farm animals. Fallow deer (scientific name Dama dama) proteins cross-react with horse proteins. People who are allergic to horse dander or fluids are likely to have a reaction to fallow deer, even if they have never been exposed to this type of deer before.
Roe Deer and Cattle Allergies
Roe deer proteins can cross-react with cattle proteins. People who are allergic to cattle dander, fluids or beef are likely to have an allergic reaction to roe deer (scientific name Capreolus capreolus), even on their very first exposure.
Deer Meat and Food Allergies
Allergies to any meat are rare, and allergies to deer meat (venison) are rare even for people allergic to other kinds of meat. Certain diseases cause sensitivity to many ingested proteins. People who are allergic to meat usually have celiac disease (an autoimmune disease of the digestive tract) or eosinophilic esophagitis (a disease where the body's white blood cells attack the lining of the esophagus). Other people with meat allergies are not allergic to the meat itself, but to proteins in pharmaceutical products that the animal was treated with. Most people with meat allergies are not allergic to venison.
Allergic reactions of the skin are treated by washing with soap and water, and applying aloe vera gel, rubbing alcohol or a prescription hydrocortisone cream. Antihistamines treat respiratory and epidermal reactions. Anaphylaxis requires epinephrine injection, antihistamines and immediate medical attention.
- ImmunoCap: Epidermal and Animal Protein Allergens
- InterScience: Clinical and Experimental Allergy: Characterization of Allergens From Deer: Cross-reactivity With Allergens From Cow Dander
- PubMed: Occupational Respiratory Allergy to Roe Deer
- Alton Thygerson, Ed. D., et al.; "First Aid, CPR, and AED"; 2007
- Photo Credit deer image by Henryk Olszewski from Fotolia.com deer image by Charles Kaye from Fotolia.com deer image by Joan Stanton from Fotolia.com deer image by Anton Chernenko from Fotolia.com cow image by david purday from Fotolia.com Deer image by Pinhole from Fotolia.com deer image by Vasiliy Koval from Fotolia.com
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