Prevention is best way to avoid severe tick bite related allergic reactions

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- We touched on this last week, but it's something that's on the minds of a lot of us this time of year.

Summertime is all about getting outside and firing up the grill for an all-American barbecue, but here's another warning out there for meat lovers.

A small, but growing outdoor danger could take that away from you.

What started out as a tick bite in September Norman’s front yard nearly took her life weeks later.

"Played golf, grilled some steaks, and about 2:30 in the morning I woke up and my hands were on fire," said September.

September was going into shock.

"My tongue and lips started swelling to the point that I could barely speak," said September.

Emergency responders treated her and sent her home, but a pork dinner that week landed her back in the ER.

That's when she mentioned the still itching tick bite to her doctor.

“He looked at me and says I know what you have,” said September. “You have Alpha-Gal, and I went, ‘Alpha what’?"

Dr. Robert Valet, an Allergist at Vanderbilt University says Alpha-Gal is a sugar found in red meat.

Bites from the "Lone Star Tick" trigger an allergic response.

"They'll have this bite and never had any issue before, but maybe days later can have these really life-threatening reactions out of the blue," said Dr. Valet.

Meaning those with the Alpha-Gal allergy must give up all red meat.

"Beef, pork, lamb, goat, even game like deer or rabbits," said Dr. Valet.

Dr. Valet says cases are on the rise; more than 1,000 have been reported nationwide.

September's totally changed her eating habits as a result of the tick bite.

She eats mostly chicken, fish and vegetables now, and started a blog entitled, “The Unintentional Diet,” to help get the word out.

Doctors say the best defense against the reaction is prevention. Wear long clothing, use insect repellent and check for ticks after you've been outside.

There is no cure for food allergies, so those with an allergy to Alpha-Gal will likely always experience a reaction to red meat.

A blood test can confirm if you have the allergy.

WATCH THAT BITE: TICKS CAN TURN YOU VEGETARIAN
REPORT #2128

BACKGROUND: Ticks are very small arachnids that live off of the blood of mammals, as well as birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Ticks often carry diseases that can be very dangerous to the body they are feeding on. The Lone Star Tick can easily be spotted by their white star on their back. They are known for being able to move far distances and are very aggressive when it comes to finding a host. The Lone Star Tick is mostly found in the Eastern and Southeastern part of the United States. They like to be where it is warm and humid, so there is potential for these to spread to more areas across the Unites States. One of the major hosts of the Lone Star Tick is white-tailed deer.
(Source: http://www.tickinfo.com/lonestartick.htm, http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html#lone-star)

ALPHA-GAL ALLERGY: This is a delayed allergy that has been spreading rapidly. There are already several thousand confirmed cases of alpha-gal in the United States, and that number will continue to increase unless everyone takes precaution. The allergy started by getting bitten by a tick that carries this allergy. It is believed that the Lone Star tick is the type of tick that is carrying this allergy. There is a delayed reaction to eating red meat. Alpha-gal is found in all mammalians, so not eating mammalian meat is the only way to treat this allergy. This means giving up beef, pork, lamb, goat, and deer. Chicken and fish are fine to eat because they aren't mammals and don't carry the allergy. Since it takes hours for the reaction to occur, patients are often misdiagnosed. Patients have to be very careful with what they consume because these allergic reactions can often be severe and they could possibly threaten the patient's life.
A few symptoms of the allergic reaction:

* Hives and swelling
* Vomiting
* Diarrhea
* Trouble breathing
* Drop in blood pressure
(Source: http://alpha-gal.org/, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140220102727.htm, and http://allergytomeat.wordpress.com/frequently-asked-questions/)

ACCORDING TO HUFFINGTON POST: "People who live in the southern and central areas of the United States may face a higher risk of meat allergy linked to lone-star tick bites than people in other parts of the country, according to a new study. Rates of the allergy to alpha-gal (short for galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose, which is a sugar carbohydrate in red meat) are 32 percent higher in these parts of the U.S., where there is also a higher prevalence of lone-star ticks. The researchers found that there were higher-than-expected rates of the allergy in some western and north-central parts of the country, a finding that suggests 'other species of ticks, or possibly human factors, may play a role in allergic reactions to alpha-gal,' Dr. Stanley Fineman, M.D., the president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said in a statement. Alpha-gal manifests with symptoms of allergic reaction three to six hours after a person eats meat. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; because they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be regarded as preliminary."


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