ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (May 14, 2014) - With Memorial Day barbecues and picnics around the corner, there’s some bad news for those ready to celebrate: The harsh winter did nothing to pare down the tick population in the United States thanks to heavy snow which insulated ticks from winter’s cold. The result could be increased cases, not only of Lyme Disease, but of a somewhat rare allergic reaction to certain tick bites.
Although many people find it difficult to believe, some tick bites can cause an allergic reaction to red meat. You read that right. Studies have shown that people who have had an allergic reaction, such as hives or anaphylaxis, three to six hours after eating red meat have also experienced at least one tick bite in their lifetime. In some people, a lone star tick bite can lead to an adverse skin reaction that leads the body to produce alpha gal, a sugar which is also found in red meat. Those who have this antibody then can have a violent allergic reaction to red meat.
This has been a problem for individuals who have received bites from the lone star tick, primarily found throughout the southeastern and south-central United States. Although the mechanism by which this allergic reaction to red meat occurs is not completely understood, patients who are bitten by these ticks are at greatest risk for developing allergy to the alpha gal that is found in abundance in red meat. Typically with this type of allergy there is a 3 to 6 hour delay between eating red meat and the beginning of the generalized allergic reaction.
“Blood levels of IgE antibodies directed against alpha-gal in the human body can rise after a single bite from the lone star tick,” said allergist Michael B. Foggs, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “This can result in allergic symptoms which are usually delayed after eating red meat and may present as mild hives or in some cases may evolve to a potentially fatal reaction known as systemic anaphylaxis.”
A blood test is used to confirm an alpha-gal allergy, and those who have the allergy must completely change their diet and stop eating red meat. Unfortunately, once the allergy develops, there’s no known cure, so avoiding exposure to ticks is the best remedy for the problem.
For more information about food allergies, and to locate an allergist in your area, visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit www.AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.