Tick That Causes Meat Eating Allergy – It’s Real!

The Lonestar Tick - Does it cause meat eating allergies to those it bites?

The Lonestar Tick – Does it cause meat eating allergies to those it bites?

A few years ago I saw a post on social media somewhere about a type of tick that causes people to develop an allergy to eating meat.  I recall the post was by some anti-meat eating website and I ignored it as hype and scare tactics.

Well, it turns out that there really is a tick that causes people it bites to develop problems when they eat red meat.  A red meat eating allergy!

As a person who eats red meat I find this to be horrible news.

Tick Bit That Causes Red Meat Allergy

And it’s not just an allergy to red meat, it also causes severe problems with eating dairy products; cheese, ice-cream, yogurt, milk, etc…

Tick bites can cause all sorts of bad infections and transfer diseases.  Most notably you have likely heard of lyme disease.  That in itself is bad enough.  But for those of you out there who enjoy red meat and include it as part of your routine diet, not to mention eating diary… all I can say is that really sucks! (slight pun intended).

The Lonestar Tick – What We Know

The culprit that causes this nasty affliction is the Lonestar Tick.  Last year there had been over 5000 reported cases of this strange tick allergy, up from 3500 cases just a couple years earlier.  Yep, instances are increasing.

Lonestar Ticks. They get their name from the female and the single bright colored dot on her back.

Lonestar Ticks. They get their name from the female and the single bright colored dot on her back.

Medical experts have only just begun to get a grasp on understanding what this specific tick can do when it bites people.  In most cases that have been studied the person’s red meat allergy subsides after a few months – which is good news!  However, people who have been bitten and infected twice seem to have the allergic condition last longer – which is not good!  And experts suspect that if bitten enough it could possibly even become permanent – really not good!

What Causes The Red Meat Allergy When Bit?

The red meat allergy caused by the Lonestar Tick is an allergy to the alpha-gal carbohydrate that’s found in cows, pigs, sheep and animals in the red meat category.  Researchers currently theorize that if the Lonestar Tick bites an animal with the alpha gal carbohydrate and then bites a human, it injects that carbohydrate into the person’s bloodstream. The human body then mounts an antibody response that activates after the person consumes red meat which causes the allergic reactions.

  • Symptoms of the tick induced red meat allergy include: hives, skin rash, stomach problems, headaches and trouble breathing. There is no treatment or cure other than avoiding red meat.

Where Can The Lonestar Tick Be Encountered?

The bad news is that the range of the Lonestar Tick is spreading slowly across North America.  It has mostly been found in the south and southeast section of the United States, all of Central America, and parts of norther South America.  Due to warmer weather and climate however, this tick has been moving further north.  It has even been found in parts of southern Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan in 2018.

It is not as prevalent in the southwest.  This is largely due to where the Lonestar Tick thrives; moist areas at ground level, grassy, bushy, and low woodland shrubs.  The southwest has more arid and dry regions that ticks do not thrive as well in.

Preventing Tick Bites – It’s Not That Hard

As an outdoorsman I spend a fair amount of time where there are lots of ticks.  Before learning about the Lonestar Tick I always tried to do my best at fighting all such insects.  For me that means taking certain precautions.

  • Use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin.  (I use Permethrin, and it works great! Kills Ticks DEAD!)
  • Wear light-colored protective clothing
  • Tuck pant legs into socks (ticks are attracted to darker colors)
  • Avoid tick-infested areas (I’ll walk around dense brushy and grassy areas when possible)
  • Check yourself, your children, and your pets daily for ticks and carefully remove any ticks (my camping knife has tweezers!)

For me treating my clothes with permethrin goes a long way in keeping ticks off.  I wrote a review of permethrin here that is worth reading.  It kills ticks and other nasty bugs dead within a minute or less of contact.

Ticks And Red Meat Allergies – Conclusion

As a person who seasonally hunts and eats red meat at least once or twice a week – and who enjoys a little dairy now and then, getting bit by the Lonestar Tick is on the top of my list of things to avoid.

People with this particular allergy report they can still eat fish and chicken, as those sources of protein do no have the alpha gal sugar based carbohydrate found in red meat.  I also eat a fair amount of fish and chicken, in fact more of those two items than red meat.  But still… It’s not an allergy I want to get, even temporarily.

Any tips or tricks of your own in combating ticks?  Please let me know.

TD

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