Oh the Irony! Lone Star Tick Can Give You a Red Meat Allergy
When you think lone star, you think. "Oh, yeah! There's great BBQ and steak out there!". But not all things labeled 'lone star' is meat-friendly. In fact, the lone star tick does quite the opposite - it can make you horribly allergic to red meat.
These nasty little buggers used to only be found in the southeast part of the country, but they're growing in numbers and have been observed as far west as Central Texas and Oklahoma [CDC]. These ticks get their name from the Texas-shaped dot found on the backs of adult females.
I would normally make a joke along the lines of: if you want to go on a diet, get bit by a lone star tick a couple times and then you CAN'T eat meat. But for fear of someone truly believing that, I really wouldn't recommend it as side effects can be unsightly and very very, very uncomfortable.
How It Works
According to PBS, scientists hypothesize that the lone star tick produces a sugar called 'Alpha-Gal' and in some cases, humans develop an allergic response to that specific sugar.
Well, red meat also has Alpha-Gal in it, so after this tick bites you, your body's immune system may assume it's the same thing when you bite into your steak or hamburger or bacon (no!!!!). PBS also noted:
Repeated tick bites can potentially cause the antibody level of Alpha-Gal to rise, worsening reactions.
There have been more than 2,000 known cases over a 10-year span in the United States. Lone star ticks will also feed on cats and dogs so watch for your pets as well.
The condition has been deemed 'southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) and the rash is accompanied by fatigue, fever, headache, and muscle pains, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people confuse this with Lyme Disease, which is contracted from other ticks - but not the lone star kind.
You can often treat the symptoms with an oral antibiotic known as doxycycline but there is no proof it increases the speed of recovery.
The CDC says 2017 may be the worst year for ticks to date, so here's how you protect yourself and your loved ones.
I know you hate the smell, but DEET! The CDC recommends the repellent has at least 20 percent.
- Cover your skin with long pants, socks, etc.
- Avoiding thick habitation
- Checking for ticks immediately after outdoor activities and removal of said ticks as soon as it's discovered.