‘It’s important to do tick checks’: Lone star tick bite causes allergy to red meat

‘It’s important to do tick checks’: Lone star tick bite causes allergy to red meat
A Goochland woman is making changes to her diet after a tick bite. Weeks after being bitten by a lone star tick, she developed an allergy to red meat.

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -A Goochland woman is making changes to her diet after a tick bite. Weeks after being bitten by a lone star tick, she developed an allergy to red meat.

“I’m going to have to be very careful and I am going to have to walk around with an Epi-pen,” Laura Van Manen said.

Van Manen remembers the tick biting her. Her husband helped her get the tick off, and she didn’t think anything else would happen afterwards. Weeks later, Van Manen went out to dinner and a movie and ate ribs. She woke up at 3 a.m. with a full-body reaction.

“Just all over, I went into the bathroom and I was covered in hives, and edema, and the itching was insane," Van Manen said. "My lips started swelling and tingling. I’ve never been allergic to anything in my life, so I was freaked out.”

Van Manen went to the ER and thought it was a one-time occurrence until a few days later when she ate red meat again, and had a similar reaction.

“I thought I should see my allergist,” Van Manen said. “As soon as I said I had eaten and didn’t have a response or reaction until hours later or the next morning, he immediately thought of the lone star tick allergy.”

CDC Tick ID: Tickborne Diseases of the United States
CDC Tick ID: Tickborne Diseases of the United States

Allergist Michael Blumberg says there is a carbohydrate in red meat called Alpha gal. When the ticks bite an animal, they absorb alpha gal from whatever mammal they may bite. The tick can later inject alpha gal into a human and humans form an antibody that makes some people allergic to red meat.

The lone star tick gets its name from a white spot on the female tick’s back. The ticks are common throughout the southeastern U.S.

Blumberg said he sees cases like Van Manen’s at least once a week. Experts say the rainy days in Virginia have caused an increase in the tick population.

“I think ‘it will never happen to me, it’s not that common,’ and here I am - allergic to red meat,” Van Manen said.

Van Manen said she got her lab results confirming the allergy Wednesday, and she will be making changes to her lifestyle to keep herself healthy and safe. She will now have to be more cautious about red meat touching her food on the grill, or even foods that may be cooked with beef broth.

“I will be eating a lot of chicken and fish,” she explained. “I love to grill for my family, be outdoors, grill steaks, and I will still do that, I just wont be able to eat them."

Blumberg said the reaction to red meat can be dangerous, which is why Van Manen has an Epi-pen to be safe.

Van Manen said it is important to take precautions when you’re outside, as the tick population increases.

“Prevention is just key. Seriously, wear your tick spray, tuck your pants into your socks and do those tick checks,” she said. “Look in those inconspicuous places, even your scalp, to make sure there isn’t a tick on you.”

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