Yes. It is True. A Bite from This St. Louis Area Tick Can Make You Allergic to Red Meat!

Posted by Mosquito Squad

December 20, 2023

It seems hard to believe, but you can develop an allergy to meat from the bite of a Lone Star tick.

One Missouri woman tells KAIT8 that “food started hurting” and was causing her to vomit. She had noticed a tick bite, so doctors tested her, and it turned out that she had become allergic to red meat. The allergy is known as Alpha-gal syndrome.

The Lone Star tick is found in the St. Louis and St. Charles areas, so it is important for area residents to be aware of this potential side-effect. Avoiding tick bites and knowing the signs and symptoms of the allergy are important for avoiding illness.

How Does a Tick Bite Make You Allergic to Meat?

undefinedIt all begins with the Lone Star tick.

Ticks do not just feed on human blood, but other mammals as well. Those animals carry a carbohydrate molecule called Alpha-gal. When a tick bites a mammal with Alpha-gal, they can then transmit that sugar molecule to the next host they bite. In some cases when Alpha-gal is transmitted to humans, it triggers an immune system reaction when they later eat red meat. The allergy is known as Alpha-gal syndrome and can be triggered by beef, pork, lamb and sometimes other meats. This allergic reaction can be mild to severe, which can make it a challenge to diagnose.

Symptoms of Alpha-Gal Syndrome

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reports that unlike most food allergies where symptoms occur quickly after ingesting the trigger food, Alpha-gal symptoms may take 3-8 hours to present after eating meat.

Symptoms can include hives, itching, swelling of lips, face or eyelids, shortness of breath, cough or wheezing, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting. Anaphylaxis may also occur in severe cases and can include a swollen throat, swelling in other areas of the body, wheezing, passing out, chest tightness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, pale or red face and body, and in Alpha-gal can also include low blood pressure.

There is no cure or treatment for Alpha-gal. Preventing symptoms means long-term avoidance of red meat. If you have a severe allergy, you may need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector for a potential anaphylaxis response.

Alpha-gal Syndrome Disrupts Daily Life

Long before we owned Mosquito Squad, we had the displeasure of learning of Alpha-gal syndrome. Our youngest son’s best friend suffers from it. We were unaware of the condition and were in disbelief it was caused by a tick bite. It can be a startling change to have to cut out red meats when you live in the Midwest where cattle farms provide an abundance of fresh food, but we are sure to always have chicken or fish on hand for our summer cookouts!

Avoiding Tick Bites

Avoiding tick bites is the best preventative measure for Alpha-gal syndrome. Follow our tick safety guide every time you adventure outdoors. It includes preventative measures such as wearing long sleeves and using insect repellent as well as how to check for ticks when you come back indoors.

To lower the population of ticks on your property, you should consider our tick control services as well. With our combination of adult tick treatment and tick tube placements for eliminating larval ticks, you can significantly lower the tick population at home. Call today for a free quote.