A tick bite this summer could leave you with a rare but serious allergy to eating meat. While it may sound like the plotline from a carnivore's nightmare, a bite from the lone star tick can cause people to develop the allergy, which could even prove deadly. As the summer warms up, tick numbers increase, so take some extra precuations to protect against their bites.

It only takes a single bite from the Lone Star tick, so named for a shape on its back, to give you the nasty allergy, and cases this year are on the rise, Wired reported. Scientists still aren't clear if the rises in meat allergies are due to increases in Lone Star tick populations, or if they're due to the allergy now being caused by other tick species.

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“There’s something really special about this tick,” Jeff Wilson, an asthma, allergy, and immunology researcher, told Wired. “Just a few bites and you can render anyone really, really allergic [to meat].”

Those with the meat allergy experience itchy hives and stomach cramps, and some even develop difficulty breathing, and in extreme cases may die.

The tick bite doesn’t make you allergic to meat itself, but rather to a sugar molecule found in meat called galactose-alpha1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal, for short, Wired reported. And although it's not entirely clear if this meat allergy is caused by the Lone Star tick bite, scientists are sure that something in the arachnid’s saliva makes victims extremely sensitive to meat. For example, the allergy is only reported in areas of the country where this tick lives. In addition, about 80 percent of those with meat allergies report being bitten by a tick, and bites from this particular tick lead to a 20 fold increase in alpha-gal antibodies.

So far, these allergies have been mostly reported in the American Southeast, but more recently have been found in individuals in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Long Island NY, The NY Daily News reported.

Meat allergies aren’t the only disease spread through tick bites. These insects can also spread lyme disease. This is a bacterial infection that can affect many parts of the body such as the brain, nervous system, muscles, joints, and the heart, The Lyme Disease Organization reported. The condition can lead to lifelong symptoms such as chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and depression. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lyme disease can also cause severe headaches and neck stiffness, rashes on the body, episodes of dizziness, nerve pain, and problems with short-term memory.

Ticks can also spread Powassan disease, a virus that can also cause symptoms such as neurological problems, headaches, and muscle and memory loss, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Longer summers and warmer winters are leading to increases in tick populations, which in turn has led to increases in all tick-caused illnesses. One simple way to protect yourself is to cover exposed skin and wear long sleeves and pants if you're going to be hiking in the woods or in other areas where ticks live. 

See Also:

With Climate Change, Ticks Are Moving On Up, Spreading Lyme Disease And Other Tick-Borne Diseases To New Parts Of The Country

What Is Powassan Virus? More Serious Than Lyme, Experts Say This Disease Could Boom During Tick Season