If You Like to Eat Red Meat, Stay Away From Ticks
by Sharon, Certified Master Naturalist
I recently had a serious allergic reaction with no idea of what caused it. My doctor referred me to an allergist and after going through a series of tests for possible food allergens, the only foods I am allergic to turned out to be mammalian meat. Luckily, I am a vegetarian.
So why would this be anything a master naturalist would be interested in? Because the doctor asked me if I had been bitten by a tick recently. I responded that I get bitten every year because I’m in the woods quite a bit. I also have a cat and suspect he brings them in and they find me somehow. But, to get to the point, my allergist said that tick bites are responsible for my severe reaction to the test for pork and beef.
This just sounded crazy to me, so I did some research online and found that what he told me is probably true. The Lone Star tick, a common tick in Virginia and the entire Southeast, seems to be the culprit in spreading this dangerous condition. The Lone Star tick is an aggressive tick and will move long distances in search of a blood meal. The tick bite causes the alpha-gal allergy. It seems to affect people with type A blood more than other people, but I don’t understand the science behind it; those of you who want to know more about that can do some research online.
Once bitten, you may become allergic to all red meat. And, you may become allergic to the point of anaphylactic shock. This is no minor allergy. It can be deadly. Once you get it, you have it for the rest of your life, at least that is the prognosis at this time.
So stay away from ticks. So far, the Lone Star tick seems to be the major culprit, but another species of tick is being looked at as possibly being able to spread the alpha-gal allergy. When in the woods, do everything you can to protect yourself from tick bites. Never forget to do that all important tick check at the end of a day outdoors. Winter is no barrier to ticks. According to some sources, you have about 24 hours between the tick finding you and the tick infecting you with something. I also found some very useful information at a website, tickencounter.org. You can see an image of a Lone Star tick and learn more about how to protect yourself from tick bites.
Want to learn more? You can look here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/11/21/165633003/rare-meat-allergy-caused-by-tick-bites-may-be-on-the-rise