Tick Bites May Be Source of Meat Food Allergy

After being bitten by the Lone Star tick, a growing number of people have been forced to give up eating red meat. The tick’s bite produces an allergic reaction that causes hives, swelling, and even anaphylaxis after consuming beef, venison and other red meats.

The twist on this type of allergic reaction? Symptoms may not occur for three to six hours after the meat is ingested.

This may come as a surprise to many patients to find out they are allergic to red meat, especially after a lifetime of consuming it.

What is the Tick-Red Meat Allergy Connection?

Experts report the source of the reaction may be a sugar called “alpha-gal” passed by the tick when it bites its victim. The body’s immune system may identify the sugar as an invader and begin producing antibodies against it. That same sugar is present in all red meats, including beef, pork and venison. Consuming red meat eventually causes the immune system to respond, triggering the allergic reaction.

According to Dr. Robert Valet, an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at Vanderbilt University, the best thing to do is to avoid additional tick bites “since the number of antibodies will rise if there are more tick bites,” he said.

If you frequent wooded areas, check for ticks in your scalp and skin when you return from outings, and wear long sleeve clothing to protect yourself.

Valet says no one knows how long the allergy will last.

How to Get Help with Your Allergy Symptoms… Fast

If you have an allergic reaction, we recommend you schedule an appointment as soon as possible to determine the source of your reaction. We have five convenient locations, evening hours and same day appointments available. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner we can help reduce your symptoms and get you feeling better quickly.

Book an appointment using our convenient online schedule page or call 404.255.9286.


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