Bite from tick could lead Hoosiers to develop allergy to red meat

The Lone Star tick

A bite from a tick could make you allergic to red meat.

The “Lone Star” tick once found only in the eastern and southeastern U.S. has showed up in Midwestern states, including Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. The tick gets its name from a distinctive white dot on its back that resembles the state of Texas.

The tick’s bite can trigger a sometimes life-threatening reaction to red meat that’s similar to episodes experienced by people who are allergic to things like shellfish or peanuts.

“The symptoms are usually like any typical allergic reaction: itching, rashing, to full-fledged anaphylaxis with difficulty breathing, wheezing,” said Dr. Kevin Boatright, an allergist and immunologist.

A bite from a Lone Star tick can transfer a sugar called alpha-gal. Those bitten by the tick eventually develop antibodies and end up with severe reactions when they eat red meat.

Sometimes it can take hours for symptoms to develop after someone eats, making the problem difficult to diagnose.

“It’s a delayed type of reaction. So when you ingest a red meat, that reaction doesn’t occur for potentially, three, up to eight hours later,” Boatright said.

There’s no known cure for the allergy, and the only course of action for those affected is to cut red meat out of their diet.

It’s essential to check for ticks whenever you’ve been outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended checking your body and clothing for ticks after you’ve been outside. It’s also a good idea to check your pets.

To prevent tick bites, the CDC recommends using an insect repellent containing 20-percent or more deet or IR-3535.