Ticks are a pest control nightmare. Not only do they carry diseases such as Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever but they are also thought to be the root cause of Multiple Sclerosis. There are dozens of species living throughout the United States and scientists have now discovered yet another reason to fear ticks.
Bites from the Lone Star tick can cause an allergy to red meat.
According to researchers in Nashville at a prestigious Asthma and Allergy Clinic at Vanderbilt University, there are several cases each week reported of sudden onset of allergic reactions to red meat caused by tick bites. Imagine you’re a happy beef eater and after receiving a tick bite you now cannot tolerate red meat. How does this happen?
Alpha-Galactose, commonly referred to as alpha-gal is a sugar contained in red meat. If there is an allergy to alpha-gal, a victim’s body will create alpha-gal antibodies and these numbers can soar up to 20 times normal antibody levels. The allergic reaction to this sugar occurs between 4 – 8 hours after eating red meat. Reactions vary from patient to patient and can range from diarrhea and nausea/vomiting all the way through hives and difficulty breathing. Severe reactions include anaphylactic shock and even death. This is not something to take lightly!
When the allergy to this sugar is activated, the antibody count to this sugar can soar up to 20 times the normal level. The severity of reactions is in direct proportion to the spike in antibody count.
What are the details on Lone Star ticks? They live throughout the southeastern United States and have been found from Texas to Maine. Their numbers have steadily grown throughout the last 20 – 30 years along with increases in other tick species. Like other ticks, they prefer wooded areas dotted with large trees and dense under growth. The females have a distinct white star on their back which differs from other tick species. If there is any consolation in this situation, it is that the Lone Star Tick is not a known carrier of Lyme Disease.
To avoid bites from the Lone Star tick, it is advised that long sleeves and pants legs be worn when venturing into wooded areas. After exiting a forested area, do a detailed search on your entire body for ticks. They will feed on humans and domestic animals in all life stages of larva, nymph and adult and can be very aggressive feeders.
So what is the solution? Safe, green and eco-friendly tick repellents. Many websites list DEET or permethrin based products but these synthetic solutions are not safe and have been losing effectiveness. It is best to use proven, natural products which you should apply liberally and frequently if exposed to tick habitats.