Ticks are largely associated with conditions such as lyme disease and spotted fevers, but experts have discovered tick bites may also be associated with an allergic reaction to meat.
Delayed anaphylaxis, which is a fatal, life-threatening allergic reaction to meat, is a new syndrome becoming increasingly prevalent in the southeastern region of America. Symptoms include hives, swelling, intestinal irritation, airway constriction, chaotic heart beat and rapid drop in blood pressure.
Study authors Susan Wolver, MD, and Diane Sun, MD from Virginia Commonwealth University, analyzed three patient cases. What they discovered was the reaction may be caused by antibodies to a carbohydrate (alpha-gal) that are produced in a person's blood in response to a tick bite, more precisely the Lone Star tick. The carbohydrate substance also appears in meats. When one has been bitten by a tick and then eats the meat, the immune system releases histamine in response to the carbohydrate compound which triggers hives.
According to Wolver, Sun and colleagues, meat-induced anaphylaxis is the first food-induced critical allergic reactions as a result of carbohydrate substances. It is also the first time anaphylaxis has been proven to have a delayed reaction.
Authors recommend: "Where ticks are endemic, for example in the southeastern United States, clinicians should be aware of this new syndrome when presented with a case of anaphylaxis. Current guidance is to counsel patients to avoid all mammalian meat –beef, pork, lamb and venison."
To lower one's risk of contracting delayed anaphylaxis one should always check specific areas of the body for ticks such as: under the arms, in and around ears, inside belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs and the waist.
If you happen to find a tick affixed to your skin, experts suggest using a fine-tipped tweezer to remove the tick instead of waiting for it to detach from the skin. Pull upwards with a steady even pressure, removing the tick as quickly and efficiently as possible to prevent the tick's mouth from breaking off in the skin. Following removing the tick, clean the bite with alcohol, iodine or soap and water.
For more information about ticks, health concerns and removal tips visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.