Yes, you read the title correctly. An often missed allergy, Red Meat Allergy (Alpha-gal syndrome and also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy), is blamed on the bite of the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum). This tiny terror of a tick originates in Texas but has now migrated its way eastward along with the deer population to just about every state except Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. All three life stages (larva, nymph, adult) of the Lone Star Tick feed on humans and are quite aggressive. Lone star ticks readily feed on other animals, including dogs and cats, and may be brought into the home on pets.
But while the lone star tick is not a factor in Lyme disease, it does transmit bacteria that cause several types of illness. Those illnesses include ehrlichiosis; red meat allergy; and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI), which produces rashes similar to those seen with Lyme disease.
According to the CDC, illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled in the U.S., with more than 640,000 cases reported during the 13 years from 2004 through 2016. Nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced into the United States during this time.
While vegans may be tempted to snicker a bit about this tiny terror, the allergic reaction caused by the Lone Star Tick is often very dangerous, especially since most doctors will not easily connect the dots. For example, one doctor from Long Island, New York, claims she alone has seen 200 affected patients in the past three years. The Red Meat allergy can cause hives and swelling, as well as broader symptoms of anaphylaxis including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, trouble breathing, and a drop in blood pressure. Persons with the allergy can go into a delayed anaphylactic shock four-six hours after eating red meat
Red Meat Allergy – Doctors Didn’t Even Know
Doctors didn’t know it was possible for the lone star tick to trigger a red meat allergy until 2011.
Doctors didn’t even know it was possible for ticks to trigger the allergy until 2011 when researchers at the University of Virginia sought to find out why so many people in the area were developing allergies to red meat late in life.
Robert Valet, MD, professor at Vanderbilt University comments: “Vanderbilt’s Asthma, Sinus, and Allergy Program (A.S.A.P.) clinic is seeing one or more new cases each week of patients allergic to the alpha-gal sugar (Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose) present in red meat. It is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts. The thought is that the tick has the alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite and that causes the production of the allergy antibody that then cross-reacts to the meat. I think it is something that certainly belongs among the most important food allergies, particularly in the Southeast. Certainly, these patients can present with every bit as severe of an allergy as someone who is allergic to peanuts.”
Alpha-gal patients can safely consume poultry such as chicken or turkey; however red meats such as beef and pork, game like venison, and for some even milk, will cause a reaction.
It takes a blood test to confirm the diagnosis and treatment is basically the same as for any other allergy. Avoidance is of utmost importance, but if an episode occurs, one can take antihistamines, or if necessary, steroids. So far, health practitioners haven’t had much success with desensitization techniques. It’s important to note that if a person suffers multiple bites over time, as is common in tick-ridden areas, the allergy will worsen.
Be aware that ticks can attach anywhere, in particular, they will find spots like the back of your knee, around waistbands, under armpits, or any other constricted place. Any time after you have been in tick habitat you should thoroughly check your entire body and remove attached ticks immediately. Once attached, ticks DO NOT wash off in the shower.
Newer Findings Red Meat Allergy
In two recent cases reported in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, people who had an allergic reaction to red meat developed hives around the area where they had been previously bitten by a tick.
In 2018 an allergy clinic in Tennessee looked at it and found that in cases where they were able to pinpoint the cause, the alpha-gal allergy was behind about a third of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) cases seen there between 2006 and 2016. That’s more than were caused by food allergies to peanuts, shellfish, or others, the researchers found.
This newer study suggests that a significant number of earlier cases with an unknown cause may actually have been due to this recently discovered allergy.
In 2019, according to Dr. Scott Commins, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at UNC School of Medicine, “Our original hypothesis was that humans developed the allergy after being exposed to alpha-gal through a tick that had fed on a deer, dog, or other small mammal that has alpha-gal. New data suggests that ticks can induce this immune response without requiring the mammal blood meal, which likely means the risk of each bite potentially leading to the allergy is higher than we anticipated.”
NAET Allergy Removal Technique for Red Meat Allergy
NAET® was discovered by Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad in 1983. Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques, also known as NAET, are a non-invasive, drug-free, natural solution to alleviate allergies of all types and intensities using a blend of selective energy balancing, testing, and treatment procedures from acupuncture/acupressure, allopathy, chiropractic, nutritional, and kinesiological disciplines of medicine.
NAET is noninvasive, relatively inexpensive, and easily administered. Therefore, it might be worthwhile to try NAET for Red Meat Allergy. It’s important to note that, as of yet, there are no clinical trials or studies specifically using NAET for Red Meat Allergy.
It’s interesting to note the following case: Succesful treatment of food allergy with Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET) in a 3-year old: A case report. Caroline B Terwee. Cases J. 2008; 1: 166. Published online Sep 19, 2008. DOI: 10.1186/1757-1626-1-166. A 3-year-old girl was intolerant to milk, sugar, egg white, pork meat, and other foods, causing eczema and dyspnoea. She was treated with Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET), a combination of kinesiology and acupressure. After 7 treatment sessions (within 4 weeks) she was free of symptoms. After three years, she can still eat everything without symptoms. This case report highlights the possible benefit of NAET for children with food allergies. Randomized clinical trials should be encouraged to study the effectiveness of NAET in treating food allergies.
Safe Ways to Avoid Tick Bites & Red Meat Allergy
- Wear light-colored pants tucked into boots and long-sleeved shirts and a hat which makes it easier to see tiny ticks.
- Use essential oils blends made especially for repelling pests (check out Botani Organics Tick Guard Repellent Spray). By the way, evidence suggests that the more common bug spray chemical, N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), isn’t useful against ticks.
- Check your pets every time they come in from outside especially if they are around brush or forest areas.
- Keep your yard tick-free by implementing landscaping that deters mice, deer, woodchucks, and other rodents that carry ticks.
- Remove tick habitats such as leaf piles, shrubs, and ground-cover near the house.
- Place children’s playsets in the sun and away from the shade. Lone star ticks cannot survive long exposure to the sun and are therefore typically found in shaded areas.
- Hiking and camping aren’t the most common ways to catch a tick-borne disease, said Kirby Stafford III, the state entomologist at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the author of the “Tick Management Handbook.” “We estimate three-fourths of people pick up the ticks in activities in and around the home,” with children’s play and gardening being some of the riskiest activities, Stafford told Live Science. Parents should also make sure to perform tick checks on children when they come in, he said.
Researchers indicate that it’s very important for medical professionals other than allergists to know about and understand red meat allergy. They indicate that doctors need to understand that abdominal pain is a key marker of this allergy and that symptoms are delayed. Many doctors believe that allergic reactions happen quickly, but this is not the case with red meat allergy. The knowledge that one can experience this reaction to meat consumed hours before needs to be spread.
Doctors also need to be aware that this allergy often presents symptoms at night — probably because many people consume red meat for dinner. Even though it seems a bit far-fetched, an important question for doctors to ask is, “What did you consume in the meal before your symptoms started?”
O’Neill, Natalie. “Tick spreading red-meat allergy through bites.” 9 August 2014. New York Post. 14 August 2014. http://nypost.com/2014/08/09/tick-spreading-red-meat-allergy-through-bites-on-long-island/
Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Red meat allergies likely result of lone star tick.”
Carrol, Linda. “This may make you allergic to red meat. How long will it last?” 12 August 2012. Today Health. 14 August 2014. http://www.today.com/health/tick-may-make-you-allergic-red-meat-how-long-will-1D80054116
“Tick Bites Linked To Red Meat Allergy.” 13 August 2014. WebMD. 15 August 2014. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20140813/tick-bites-red-meat-allergy
“Red meat allergies likely result of lone star tick.” 20 February 2014. Science Daily. 15 August 2014. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140220102727.htm
Schmidle, Paul et al. Recall urticaria—A new clinical sign in the diagnosis of alpha-gal syndrome. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Volume 7, Issue 2, 685 – 686.
University of North Carolina Health Care. “Likelihood of tick bite to cause red meat allergy could be higher than previously thought.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 February 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190224100433.htm>.