Is it possible to develop an allergy to red meat from a tick bite? There have been recent news reports of this allergy on the rise.
People can actually develop allergies to the sugar (galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or simply alpha gal) from the saliva of the Lone star tick. This sugar is found in red meats which can trigger a red meat allergy. Typical symptoms are delayed 3-8 hours after consumption and can range from symptoms including hives, swelling to a severe allergic reaction.
The Lone star tick is found mostly in the southeastern and eastern United States. Thus far, Colorado is not considered an endemic area although patients may travel to areas in the southeast or east. Measures one can take include tick avoidance and preventing bites which can include knowing where to expect ticks, wearing insect repellents and other measures detailed by the CDC. For more information, please visit the website www.cdc.gov.
Patient with a confirmed diagnosis would need to avoid red meat and carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them in case of reaction. If you believe you may have the alpha gal allergy or have further questions, you can set up an appointment with one of our allergists for further evaluation and management.