WEB EXTRA: New Study Links Tick Bites With Meat Allergy

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Burger and steak lovers, heads up! A new study says that tick bites could make you allergic to red meat.

Dr. Debendra Pattanaik, and associate professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, headed up the study. He says a bite from the Lone Star Tick can cause people to become more sensitive to a carbohydrate called alpha-gal.

“When the tick bites a human being, it transfers those carbohydrates to the human and that’s how people become sensitized,” says Dr. Pattanaik.

The problem is alpha-gal is commonly found in red meats like beef, pork, and venison. When people eat those meats, they can develop symptoms like hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, and tongue. What makes this food allergy unique, though, is its timing.

“Most of the time that you react to your food, it happens immediately. Within half an hour, an hour,” says. Dr. Pattanaik. “But this can happen up to three to eight hours [later].”

It’s unclear if the red meat allergy is permanent, but Dr. Pattanaik says their current goal is trying to better diagnose the condition.

“It’s not that everybody is going to have this reaction who got a tick bite. There’s some patients that might develop symptoms,” says Dr. Pattanaik. “I don’t think we completely understand this thing; who’s going to develop it and who’s not going to develop it.”

You can prevent tick bites in the first place by dressing in long sleeves and pants and wearing insect repellents with DEET when you’re outside.

For more tips from the Centers for Disease Control on how to avoid ticks, click here.

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