Whether it’s Lyme disease, babesiosis, bartonella, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the list of tick-caused health problems continues to climb. In fact, doctors are now even validating a connection between lone star tick bites and serious red meat allergies afflicting people in some Southeastern states. Those with the weird tick-bite side effect reside in states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, although medical experts are now indicating that cases are quickly showing up along the eastern seaboard.
Certain patients are incurring tick-bite allergies after the fact because of the alpha-gal sugar found in red meat, says Robert Valet, MD, assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt’s Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program (A.S.A.P.). This allergy causes numerous symptoms including diarrhea, difficulty breathing, blood pressure drop, hives, and swelling; some patients are even reacting to milk.
“It is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts,” Dr. Valet admits. “The thought is that the tick has the alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite,” which leads to the formation of the allergy antibody that cross-reacts to the consumed meat, he says.
Because the alpha-gal is found in animal fat (which takes hours to adequately digest), those who have the allergy can fall into delayed anaphylactic shock between just four to six hours post-red-meat consumption– making it awfully tough to properly diagnose. “It certainly is a big disruption for a lot of people’s lives,” Dr. Valet continues. “Things like your classic barbecue really become off limits.”
Continued tick bites can increase the amount of allergy antibody, so people who have the allergy are recommended to steer clear of even the tiniest amounts of red meat and milk. Dr. Valet even recommends carrying an EpiPen around in case someone becomes ill with the allergy and needs to immediately be treated.
Always remember to consult your physician or chiropractor before taking any health advice.
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