Can Tick Bites Make You Allergic to Meat?
Wave of allergic reactions linked to southern U.S. tick
After being bitten by a tick, you’re probably worried about Rocky Mountain Fever or Lyme disease—not about your next hamburger. But according to two allergists at the University of Virginia, a meat allergy—an allergy to almost all types of mammalian meat—is cropping up around the country. It's already affected more than 1,500 Americans—all bitten by the the common lone star tick, found in southeastern and south-central states.
The allergy, known as galactose-alpha-1 or alpha-gal for short, can be severe, often causing anaphylaxis—a life-threatening reaction that causes the throat to swell, restricting breathing. Unlike typical allergies that have symptoms that occur within seconds to minutes after allergen exposure, the tick-borne meat allergy often doesn’t show symptoms for four to six hours after your meal.
Aside from the tick-bite connection, doctors are still pretty clueless as to what is causing the reaction. Some have speculated that baby ticks or tick larvae might be more prone to inducing alpha-gal. The expert advice? Don’t get bitten by ticks. Seriously. Use DEET bug repellent, wear long pants and check yourself when you get back from the wilderness.