Lone Star tick bite can spark unusual food allergy to red meat

Thursday, July 11, 2019
Lone Star tick bite can spark unusual food allergy to red meat
Lone Star tick bite can spark unusual food allergy to red meat: Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on July 11, 2019.

Warmer weather means more ticks, and a greater risk for some of the diseases the bugs carry. One can leave you with a new food allergy.

While most of us worry about Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, scientists believe a bite from the Lone Star tick is the cause of a very unusual condition.

Three years ago, Dean Cecil went to the emergency room for an allergic reaction. A specialist diagnosed him with an allergy to red meat caused by a tick bite. He now carries an EpiPen and must avoid eating pork, lamb and beef.

"I used to love to grill out your hamburgers, your steaks, your ribs. Well, those things are no longer on my menu," he said.

"It's not entirely clear to scientists why a bite from the Lone Star tick bite causes an allergy to the carbohydrate, alpha-gal, found in red meat, or how common this is. But it's important to note, it doesn't happen to everybody who's bitten," said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

Right now the Lone Star tick is found mainly in the Southeast United States, but their habitats are spreading, and they can be found as far north as Minnesota and Maine.

While not all ticks carry the same diseases, at least one variety of disease-transmitting ticks can be found in every state.

Black-legged ticks spread Lyme disease, which is the most common. About 300,000 Americans develop Lyme each year.

"One way to avoid a tick-borne infection is to prevent tick bites by always using an effective insect repellent," Roberts says.

Consumer Reports' intensive testing of repellents found products that contain between 25 tp 30 percent DEET are best at repelling ticks. And be sure to check yourself and others for ticks when you come in from outside, and shower soon after coming inside.

For extra protection, toss the clothing you wore outside into the dryer on high heat for ten minutes to kill ticks that might still be hanging on.

And if you do find a tick, it's important remove it properly. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the body as possible, then pull it straight out.

Pennsylvania also has a program where you can send the tick into a lab to be tested for disease. For more information, visit: ticklab.org

And if you develop any flu-like symptoms, you should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.