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Tick bite can cause meat allergy

Here is another reason to keep ticks off your dogs and out of your homes. A bite from one species of tick can trigger an allergy to red meat. Fox News reported on August 8, 2014, that a substance in the tick’s saliva is also found in red meat. When the tick bites a human, it triggers an immune response. The next time that person eats red meat, it could cause an allergic reaction.

Lone Star Ticks can cause a meat allergy
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

How can this happen?

The Lone Star Tick, Amblyomma americanum, is the culprit. This tick has alpha-gal, a type of sugar, in its saliva. Alpha-gal is also found in animals that produce red meat like cows, deer, pigs, and rabbits. When a person is bit by the Lone Star Tick, the body sends out an immune response to the intruder. In this case, the intruder is alpha-gal. When red meat containing alpha-gal is eaten, it is possible for it to trigger an immune response—causing an allergic reaction.

Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, head of the Allergy and Immunology department at University of Virginia, discovered a link between the Lone Star Tick and an allergic reaction to the sugar, alpha-gal. His paper on the link between the tick and alpha-gal is available on PubMed. People who experience symptoms have hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the hands and face. It is an anaphylactic reaction. According to Dr. Platts-Mills’ paper, the Lone Star Tick is the only possible culprit.

Other tick issues

If a meat allergy is not enough of a reason to dislike the Lone Star Tick, it can also trigger a rash that is a completely separate medical condition. A reaction to a Lone Star Tick bite can trigger a circular shaped rash that is similar to Lyme disease, however, it is not caused by the bacteria Boreelia bergdorferi. The rash caused by the Lone Star Tick is called STARI, southern tick associated rash illness.


The Lone Star Tick will bite humans, deer, and domestic animals. It is important to keep ticks out of your home and yard. Pets should be checked frequently for ticks, especially during warmer weather.

If you venture out into the woods to hunt, hike, or camp, be sure to wear long pants and longs sleeves. Wear light colored clothing so that ticks are easily spotted. Use a bug repellent. Always check yourself after being outdoors for ticks. If you are bitten by a tick, remove it with tweezers and keep it in a small, sealed container. Mark the area of the tick bite, and wash it well. Check for any rash or other type of reaction. If you have a reaction, go to a doctor or emergency room and bring the tick with you.

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