by Lizzie Bennett
Thousands of cases of a severe allergy to red meat are occurring in the Southeastern United States. This ‘epidemic’ is spreading fast up the Eastern Seaboard of the country.
It’s no coincidence that the deer population is moving in the same direction, and with them are the ticks they carry.
The Lonestar tick has something called alpha-gal sugar in its gut. When it bites a person the alpha-gal sugars are injected into the body and allergy antibodies are produced. This sensitizes the person to the alpha-gal sugar, which is also present in red meat.
Sadly this is not something that can be treated with a few antihistamine tablets. It’s a severe allergy that can cause death without treatment. It is considered by doctors to be on a par with peanut allergy. The allergy can cause hives and swelling, as well as broader symptoms of anaphylaxis including vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and a drop in blood pressure. Persons with the allergy can go into a delayed anaphylactic shock four to six hours after eating red meat.
Here’s an account from a sufferer:
“At about midnight I woke up and was itching very bad, kind of like a rash,” she said. “About 2:30 a.m. I got up, and my hands felt like they were on fire, like I was bitten by fire ants. I drank two bottles of water, sat on the sofa, and it wasn’t five minutes before I felt my tongue and lip swelling and told my husband that something was wrong. I could barely talk at that point my tongue was so thick. He turned on the lights and his eyes looked like saucers.”
They drove from the park toward the interstate to get a cell phone signal to call 911 and waited on the highway for emergency help to arrive.
“I was getting worse. My whole body was red and broken out in hives. I was staring out the window, saying ‘Please God, not here.’ I probably would have gone into a panic had I looked at myself in the mirror. My husband said my face looked like a giant red balloon and my lips looked like a clown.”
The emergency responders gave Norman an epinephrine injection to treat the anaphylaxis, and she received Benadryl, an IV, and steroids during the ambulance ride to Sparta, the closest hospital. The doctor at the hospital said her reaction was probably environmental and sent her home with a prescription and advice to always carry an EpiPen.
She continued to eat red meat, even preparing her son’s favorite pork tenderloin dish that Wednesday. As the week wore on, and her steroids from the hospital wore off, Norman felt her throat becoming tighter and tighter.
“I had been eating the culprits all week,” she said. “I was full of steroids and that’s probably why it took so long. We went to Vanderbilt, and Dr. Jan Price talked to me about what happened to me. I was retracing my steps and remembered that, in the middle of June, a tick bit me on the foot. She sent me to Dr. Valet, and he said he knew what I had based on the tick and my reactions.” (source)
The Lonestar tick is easy to identify from the mark, which is sometimes similar to a star, in the centre of its back. If you have been bitten and experience ANY unexpected symptoms after eating red meat go to the nearest emergency medical facility immediately. Anaphylaxis is a killer without prompt medical treatment. If you have an EpiPen in the house, even if it’s not yours, use it at the first sign of facial swelling, it will most likely save your life.
About the author
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.