Could This Tick Turn You Into a Vegetarian?

Is there a bug that’s turning red meat eaters into vegetarians?

Yep. A bite from a Lone Star tick is making some people “allergic” to red meat, resulting in hives, swelling and breathing problems. Some sufferers go into full anaphylactic shock four to six hours after eating meat.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Trouble breathing
• Drop in blood pressure
• Closing of the throat

The allergic reaction is to the alpha-gal sugar present in red meat. Doctors are theorizing that the Lone Star tick maintains the sugar in its gut and saliva and introduces it to victims during a bite. This causes the production of the allergy antibody, which then reacts to the alpha-gal in red meat.

Lone Star tick allergies are affecting patients in Southeastern states and spreading up the Eastern Seaboard with the deer population. The allergy is putting victims off beef and pork, though they can safely eat poultry. Some patients even react to milk.

Once a patient becomes allergic to meat, there’s no good way to desensitize them, says Dr. Robert Valet, of Vanderbilt’s Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program.

“It certainly is a big disruption for a lot of people’s lives,” Valet told Science Daily. “Things like your classic barbeque really become off limits.”

Doctors are telling victims to avoid ticks and, if they are bitten and develop the allergy, carry an EpiPen if they have exposure to red meat.

Image credit: CDC Public Image Library


Angela J.
Angela B3 years ago

Wow....that is so disturbing! I live in Canada but I am surrounded by forests full of deer.....we check for ticks on a daily basis during the summer. My heart goes out to those afflicted with life threatening allergies.

Dale O.

True, Valerie K, there are many people requiring EpiPens because of allergies and no doubt tick bites will increase the number of people who are required to carry them should some develop this allergy for meat. Then, there is Lyme Disease which can affect anyone.

Sandy G, I don't live in the U.S., nor do I get meat from factory farms and instead of cutting back on Inspectors in the U.S., they should be hiring more, not to mention acquiring far more stricter legislation regarding how animals are slaughtered. U.S. law requires death to be quick and skinning alive is in direct violation of the law, so enforce it. By putting video cameras in all facilities, then it would be easier to enforce.

"The Humane Slaughter Act simply requires that animals be rendered insensible to pain before they are harvested. However, apparently this law is not being enforced in some instances."

Dale O.

Many people have to worry about concerns stemming from tick bites, not to mention Lyme Disease than the judgement of others in the ongoing meat wars. It could be meat this time but who is to say about the next change of what tick bites can do - it could create allergies to soy, or another food. Some have already wondered, since ticks bite wildlife, what happens to wolves and other carnivores in the wild should they develop a similar allergy to meat, they are more prone to getting bitten by ticks than humans are since they live in the wild.

How touching that I seemingly 'somewhat' erudite - however, I have always favoured video cameras 24/7 in factory farms and slaughterhouses and animals not being alive during the process. Your concern for people's allergies is duly noted.

Sandy G.
Sandy G3 years ago

Well, Dale, unfortunately you don't have to travel to China to see animals skinned alive. Get to an American slaughterhouse and you'll see it there. Assembly line killing of cows and pigs, where the first step is stunning them, and the next step is skinning them, then quartering them, etc. until they're packaged at the end of the line is the norm in our very own U.S. of A. Sheesh, you try to sound so erudite yet know nothing of the slaughterhouse practices in your own country.

Valerie K.
Val K3 years ago

Dale O. you should carry an Epi pen. There is a list on that site of people who have died from anaphylactic shock. In almost every case they didn't have their Epi pen with them. And please remember that they expire after a year.

Just because you haven't had Anaphylaxis in the past doesn't mean you wont. My grandson had been eating peanut butter for about 4-5 months before his first reaction.

"Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic response that is marked by swelling, hives, lowered blood pressure, and dilated blood vessels. In severe cases, a person will go into shock. If anaphylactic shock isn't treated immediately, it can be fatal."

Arlene C.
Arlene C3 years ago

merci Lisa

Dale O.

That was an interesting link that you provided, Valerie K concerning allergies and as Tamar M states, allergies are nothing to joke about. I have some allergies to certain foods, even breaking out in hives all over at times after eating strawberries in some situations. It is not life-threatening however, so I will still eat strawberries, but I do have allergies to shellfish and when younger had eaten seafood. The first time was when I had lobster for dinner as a child and I was very ill afterwards, but we did not link it to an allergy to shellfish. It was not until after travelling to Massachusetts during a band and choir exchange in High School that I discovered the allergy. We were served seafood prior to the concert that we were involved in. While on stage during the two minute break, I suddenly felt extremely ill and had to run off the stage in front of everyone. (We were to sing the national anthems of both countries after the break and had I remained, that would have not gone over well).

Dale O.

If I should have shellfish by accident, it will make me very ill and certainly one does have to beware in various restaurants. For example, fish sauce can contain shellfish ingredients. If I am sampling foods, I have to be always aware of what is in them. The link even mentioned that one should avoid being in the same area where shellfish are being cooked because the steam can cause illness as the protein of shellfish becomes airborne, so one does have to be aware of these things. I don't carry an EpiPen, however, but perhaps I should. I am now allergic to cats, but will always have one as a companion as that allergy is manageable.

Tamar M, hopefully, the allergy that you have will one day no longer exist. Best wishes to you.

Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago


Valerie K.
Val K3 years ago

Tamar M. I'm sorry you have developed this allergy. If you haven't already you can read my previous comments on this. I get it.

If you visit
they have a lot of information for dealing with food allergies. There is some on meat allergies, but not much. Perhaps you could start a conversation and awareness about it with your experience.

Also check out this video from the AAAAI for more information.

Best of luck to you.