Extreme food allergies possible from a single bite

Now there’s a new reason to fear tick bites. It’s a potentially deadly allergy that starts with the dreaded insects. Once people are exposed to this danger, they can be stuck with a terrible food allergy for years or for life.

Disease-carrying ticks lurk in grasses and wooded areas in most parts of the United States, and tick-borne diseases are on the rise Centers for Disease Control and Prevention how the warmth of spring brings out the ticks.

“I looked like a monster when I walked in there,” Brenda Thomas said of her first visit to the ER for the allergy. “The hives were on my scalp, it was in my ears, between my fingers. It was the worst allergic reaction I’ve ever had. But we had no idea what it was at the time.”

Thomas suffered from allergic reactions and had to spend a year and a half in emergency rooms before she finally found an allergy specialist who discovered she was developing a meat allergy from a lone tick bite. A blood test confirmed that Thomas had Alpha Gal Syndrome.

“I never saw the tick. I never realized I was even bitten by a tick,” Thomas said. “That’s the strange thing. I have no idea when I was infected.”

Thomas has since learned that two others in her rural Virginia neighborhood also have the syndrome.

The ticks can ingest the alpha-gal carbohydrate from a previous mammalian host and transmit the sugar to humans through saliva during a bite or feeding. The transfer can take hours or up to a day, according to CDC.

In some people, the immune system triggers antibody to fight the foreign substances like alpha gal carbohydrates. Like Thomas, these antibodies attack every time she eats meat, milk, or gelatin and can cause hives, swelling, headaches, and anaphylaxis. She once passed out on the way to the hospital and had to call an ambulance after having trouble breathing because her throat was swollen.

a sick asian chinese woman lying on the sofa in the living room
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne diseases.
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The allergic reaction can last up to eight hours after eating meat, so most people can’t tell what caused the reaction.

There is no cure for Alpha Gal Syndrome. Thomas goes to the annual exam. After several years, her doctor said her antibody levels were not yet low enough to allow her to safely eat meat. “Even if he told me I could eat red meat, I wouldn’t because I don’t think I want to take that risk again,” Thomas said.

The lone star tick got its name from the distinctive white dot on the back of females. It is widespread in the eastern half of the nation in grassy, ​​scrub, and wooded areas, but it has moved farther north and west, bringing with it problems.

“Ticks forage, hanging onto some vegetation with their hind legs while extending their front legs to grab a passing host,” said Amy Korman, Ph.D., Extension Educator with PennSate Extension and expert in entomology.

Need blood

Birds, deer, dogs, humans, even reptiles and amphibians harbor ticks. All ticks need a blood meal to grow from one life stage to the next. “The larva feeds on small rodents. The next stages, the nymph and adult, prefer larger hosts,” Korman said.

The CDC lists many tick-borne diseases, The most common is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection. The CDC estimates that 476,000 Americans will have been diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease in 2021.

block of wood on the finger
The CDC advises removing a tick immediately if you see one on your body.
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“Depending on location, anywhere from 1 to 50 percent of black-footed ticks can have the bacteria,” Korman said.

Black-legged ticks take 1-2 days to transmit the bacteria. Antibiotics can stop the disease if caught early. If not treated immediatelyPeople can suffer from inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, palpitations, arthritis with severe swelling and pain, shooting nerve pain, and facial paralysis (loss of muscle tone or drooping of the face).

“A neighbor has pretty bad Lyme disease,” Thomas said. “She ended up having to quit her job and is almost disabled.”

What to do if you find a tick

Remove a tick immediately if you find one on your body, advises the CDC. Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the head as possible and pull evenly. Do not tear, twist, or crush the tick. Be sure to remove the head from the skin.

Wash the wound and your hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Dispose of the insect by flushing it down the toilet, sealing it in a bag, or soaking in alcohol before discarding.

That Virginia Department of Health said you can preserve the tick by freezing it in a plastic bag or by adding alcohol to the sealed bag to identify the species. But the explained CDC that not all laboratory results are of high quality and should not be used in making medical treatment decisions.

tick on the skin
Wear long pants and sleeves when outdoors to avoid tick bites.
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Most people, they said, would develop symptoms before lab results returned. So monitor the wound and surrounding skin for a rash and yourself for fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.

“I often find ticks on myself, it comes with the job,” Korman said. “I wouldn’t see a doctor unless I was ill or noticed something unusual.”

Korman directs those looking for tick testing to the Institute of Wild Genetics at East Stroudsburg University.

prevent tick bites

Avoid wooded and bushy areas with tall grass and leaves to avoid ticks. Those who camp, hike, garden and hunt should take with them Precautionsaccording to CDC:

  • Wear long pants and sleeves
  • Treat clothing, boots, and camping gear as well permethrin (at least 0.5%) products. Read the instructions, the repellent works even after several washes.
  • Use an EPA-registered repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, lemon eucalyptus oil, para-menthane diol, or 2-undecanone. The EPA has a simple website for reference: Find the repellent that suits you.

When you return home, check for ticks:

  • Check all pets, clothing, gear, and backpacks for tramp ticks.
  • Wash clothes in hot water or tumble dry on high heat for 10 minutes (longer if clothes are damp).
  • Shower to remove loose ticks.
  • Check your body in the mirror, especially: armpits, in and around your ears, belly button, back of your knees, in and around your hair, between your legs and around your waist. Don’t forget to check the kids too.

If you are bitten by a tick and have an allergic reaction or underlying medical condition, contact your doctor immediately. Extreme food allergies possible from a single bite


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