In past articles, we have talked about potential health problems that can be caused by bites from the bloodsucking hitchhikers known as ticks. While many of them are life-threatening, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever, there is a new tick-related illness on the horizon that might change your way of life. Would you believe it if we told you that one bite from the wrong tick, and you might never be able to eat your favorite foods again? It is a possibility.
Can Tick Bites Cause a Meat Allergy?
As strange as it may seem, it’s becoming more common for bites from the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) to cause a rare, mammal meat-eating allergy. This unfortunate side-effect of the tick bite causes an allergy to the galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose sugar (alpha-gal) that is found in beef, lamb, and pork. People developing allergies to food that they enjoyed all their lives has only recently been linked to the bites of the lone star tick. However, the reason behind this is not clear and there is no FDA-approved treatment for the allergy once it develops. While it is not considered a permanent allergy, there is no reliable way to determine how long a person bitten by the lone star tick will remain afflicted with an alpha-gal allergy.
What Are the Symptoms of a Tick-Related Meat Allergy?
Although not as severe as the symptoms encountered in some allergies – such as those related to peanuts, walnuts, and shellfish – the symptoms of an alpha-gal allergy are still extremely unpleasant. It initially shows itself as hives and skin irritation similar to poison ivy or poison oak rashes, but can then progress to gastrointestinal distress and vomiting. In the most severe cases, intense respiratory distress and shortness of breath can lead to unconsciousness or even death. Fortunately, this remains rare and can be avoided by abstaining from eating any meat other than chicken and seafood.
Should Meat Lovers Be Worried?
The good news for residents of Arizona is that according to the CDC, the lone star tick has not expanded its territory west of Texas, but the tick is aggressively expanding northward. As global temperatures are rising, there is a possibility that they may be encountered on an excursion to the east coast of the United States or as far north as Maine. If traveling to this area, take every possible action to prevent tick bites. When enjoying outdoor activities, do not walk through tall grass with loose pants cuffs, but rather tuck them into boots. If possible, treat clothing and exposed skin with a chemical repellent such as DEET and permethrin cream.
How worried are you about this new health menace posed by the lone star tick? If you are concerned your home or your pets may be victimized by opportunistic parasites, we are here to put your fears to rest. Contact us today for a no-obligation inspection.