Can Tick Bites Actually Lead to Beef Allergies?

   05.25.18

Can Tick Bites Actually Lead to Beef Allergies?

With summer weather officially upon the majority of the United States, insects and other weather-related nuisances are here. This year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is warning that tick-related illnesses are on the rise. As a result of larger areas of tick infestation, scientists now believe that bites from certain ticks can lead to an allergy to red meat.

How can someone develop an allergy to red meat from a tick bite?

According to an article from CBS:

The Lone Star tick, found in the South and the eastern half of the United States, carries a sugar called alpha-gal that humans don’t have. This sugar is also found in red meat — beef, pork, venison, rabbit, and some dairy products. When the tick bites, it can trigger a person’s immune system to create antibodies to the sugar that, in turn, cause their body to reject red meat, setting off a serious allergic reaction.

The CBS article goes on to suggest that by not having further contact or being bitten by ticks, that the allergy will diminish and eventually go away altogether. However, unlike other allergies, many people don’t even know they have anything wrong with them until 6, sometimes 8 hours after eating beef. Hives seem to be the most common response. Doctors warn that it can be worse.

UNC Chapel Hill researcher Dr. Scott Commins said, “This has become the biggest cause of new onset food allergy and anaphylaxis in adults throughout the South and largely in the East as well.”

The CDC is monitoring all illnesses caused by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas closely. The agency has given some guidelines and best practices to avoid being bitten by ticks, and what to do if you find one on yourself or others.

The Center for Disease Control suggests looking for insect repellent with at least 20% Deet.
The Center for Disease Control suggests looking for insect repellent with at least 20% Deet.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense:

Here are a few ways to prevent tick bites and thus avoid a potential beef allergy as a result.

  • Tick repellent. Use a tick repellent that contains safe amounts of Deet when in a “risk area.” Remember, “risk area” is virtually anywhere outdoors where animals live. You’ll want at least 20% Deet in whichever repellent you choose. BugBand makes a wrist/ankle band if you don’t want to spray a chemical on your body. In 2017, Thermacell introduced a new product called Tick Control Tubes which kill ticks as they feed. Confined areas are easily treatable, giving a chemical-free alternative for hunters or anyone who enjoys being outdoors.
  • If possible, wear light colored clothing so the ticks stand out when they’re on your clothes. Specifically, wear long sleeved shirts. The more skin you are able to cover, the better. Wear long pants tucked into your socks. If you are unable to do so, then tape around the opening between your pants and socks/boots to prevent ticks from crawling inside your pants. Wear a hat. There’s a reason ticks like to attach to our pets – they thrive in hairy conditions and can hide easily. Cover your head when spending time outdoors.
  • Wear latex gloves when field dressing any kills from hunts. Bodily fluids (including blood) can transmit disease, this is especially important when handling wild animals. Your chances of contracting Lyme or another tick-related illness are very slim, but wearing gloves for cleaning game is a good practice anyway.
Thermacell's Tick Control Tubes which kill ticks as they feed.
Thermacell’s Tick Control Tubes which kill ticks as they feed.

Tick Detection and Removal tips:

  • Thoroughly check yourself and your pets as soon as you come in from the outdoors. Remember, some ticks you might be looking for are about the size of a period at the end of this sentence. While ticks may not necessarily bite the animal they are carried on, they can still get into your home and bite you.
  • If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers by grasping it on the mouth end and don’t mash it’s guts. You may be pushing the infected materials into your body. Don’t twist it, which might leave tick parts behind in the skin
  • Once you come in from outside, hit the showers. Not only will it be easier to locate any ticks this way, you can throw your close in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes and kill any ticks trying to come in from outside with you.

Tick-related illnesses, specifically one caused by alpha-gal can be easily avoided with the implementation of a few specific guidelines and shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment of All Oudoors.

The CDC is monitoring all illnesses caused by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas closely.
The CDC is monitoring all illnesses caused by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas closely.
Read More