Bite Of Oklahoma's Lone Star Tick May Spark Meat Allergy

Tuesday, July 3rd 2012, 9:14 am
By: Dave Davis

There will be plenty of hamburgers and hot dogs to go around this week for the Fourth of July, but there's something you may want to watch out for.

It's a meat allergy that has patients and doctors still unsure of exactly how it works.

Alpha-gal is a shortened name for a certain sugar found in the blood of most mammals and within the last five years doctors are finding more and more patients who have delayed and severe reactions after eating meat and getting bitten by a certain tick.

Doctors aren't sure exactly why, but the bite of the Lone Star tick, combined with eating beef, pork, lamb and other meats, appears to be setting off severe allergic reactions in some patients, usually three to five hours after they eat.

These reactions are similar to anaphylaxis, nausea, uncontrollable itching and trouble breathing.

The Lone Star tick is found across Oklahoma and when I visited the Allergy Clinic of Tulsa recently, Doctor James Love told me that he's seen several cases in the past few years.

"It's a little hard to wrap yourself around the concept uh but most people are grateful once they realize what's going on because prior to the advent of this and these tests, nobody knew why they were having these horrible, horrible attacks at night. It's hard for them to believe that all of the sudden this has happened to them because they have been eating it fine and certainly with most of the cases, there are times when they'll eat a little bit of beef and it'll be fine and there are other times when they'll eat it and they'll have horrible symptoms later," said Dr. James Love.

Right now there really isn't a treatment for the allergy, but Dr. Love says avoiding meat and the Lone Star tick is the best solution for now.