Late last year, I got a diagnosis that changed my life. About 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I began to get really sick. I would have occasional outbreaks of hives in my sleep. Stomach pains were making me so miserable that I braved the late-2020 COVID surge to get an endoscopy. The results showed that I had a perfectly healthy upper GI tract. 

I went through a rigorous elimination diet to try and figure out what was causing me hives. I eliminated alcohol, wheat, diary, eggs, stone fruits, seafood, and countless other food items. Nothing seemed to work. And I hadn’t connected my stomach pains to the hives. 

Me out working on wildlife surveys

I’ve always been an outdoors person, and with the pandemic shutting down most activities, I doubled down on hiking and took on some wildlife surveys for state and local government for some extra income alongside my communications and design work. That brought on the tick bites. And a lot of them. I’m used to tick bites, though I try to avoid them. I use permethrin on my shoes and pants, and I use a lint roller to get the ones the poison misses. I always shower when I get home and do a thorough tick check. But I can’t catch all of them. And I didn’t. 

One night I woke up covered in hives with my heart racing and my lips swollen. It was my first bout with an anaphylactic reaction. It was time to see an allergist and get an epi pen. 

I went back through what I had eaten that day. I stopped for a cheeseburger after a wildlife survey in southern Minnesota, and for dinner, my husband and I took a friend out for a Juicy Lucy and Minneapolis’ famous Matt’s Bar. It was unusual for me to eat that much meat in one say; I’ve gone from vegan to vegetarian to meat eater to vegetarian to vegan several times in my life. But, I pretty much only had beef and cheese that day. Could that be what I’m allergic to?  I went to google and found Alpha Gal Syndrome. A few months later, an allergy test confirmed it. 

AGS is caused by a tick bite. Ticks – mainly the Lone Star Tick — can carry a carbohydrate called galactose-α-1,3-galactose (Alpha Gal) in their saliva. Some people, when they are bitten by a tick, have a reaction to the carbohydrate and develop an allergy to it. Alpha Gal is found in most mammals (except people and higher primates). That means beef, pork, lamb, milk, cheese, gelatin, lanolin (found in many shampoos, soaps and lotions), and countless other mammal products present a danger for people with AGS. 

Aside from some active Facebook groups and the excellent, volunteer-run website, there isn’t much information out there. As a designer, I decided to create an infographic to give people who hadn’t heard of AGS a quick and easy place to look. 



I used teal as the overall palette because it’s the food allergy awareness color. I used red to add some contrast and highlight specifics pieces of information. The data comes from the

The infographic is free to download and print by anyone who wants to share information about AGS. Please spread awareness far and wide!