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Tick bites causing allergic reactions to red meat becoming more common in Louisiana

It’s called the “Lone Star Tick” because of the small white mark on its back.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 5:37 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The tick that’s making people allergic to red meat is becoming more common in Louisiana.

It’s called the “Lone Star Tick” because of the small white mark on its back.

Aaron Gross, an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech, is one of the few looking into the “Alpha-gal syndrome.”

He said the bite transmits a sugar molecule called “Alpha-gal” into a person’s body.

For some, it causes mild to severe allergic reactions to red meat like beef, pork or lamb. It also causes allergic reactions to milk products.

He said more cases are popping up across Louisiana.

Signs and symptoms of Alpha-gal syndrome may include: hives, itchy skin, swelling in the lips, face, or tongue, a runny nose, stomach pain and headaches.

Signs and symptoms of Alpha-gal syndrome may include: hives, itchy skin, swelling in the lips, face, or tongue, a runny nose, stomach pain and headaches.

Gross said what’s unique about Alpha-gal is that it takes a while to have an allergic reaction.

It can take anywhere from two to six hours after consuming the animal product. This is different from peanuts where the allergic reaction happens immediately.

“With this red meat allergy and with an increased incidence of tick bites that more of this is starting to pop up and it’s quite concerning to people when they have an allergic reaction, a food allergy that is unlike any other food allergies that we see with peanuts for example,” said Aaron Gross, an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech.

Gross said there’s currently no treatment other than avoiding red meat and other products made from mammals. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid areas where ticks live, like bushy wooded areas. You should also use deet, tick-proof your yard and check yourself, your children or your pets for ticks.

It’s helpful to shower as soon as you’re done outside.

Also, remove a tick as soon as possible with tweezers.

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