Tick bites can trigger rare issue that makes people allergic to red meat, health experts say

Meat allergy triggered by lone star tick

DETROIT – Ticks are on the move in Michigan, even showing up in our backyards. While Lyme disease is on the No. 1 tick concern, there's also another threat that experts said is on the rise.

It's a rare allergy to meat that can be triggered by a tick.

Like many, Linda Wilson said she loves to eat meat.

"Well, I am a carnivore," Wilson said.

But after getting bitten by a tick, Wilson developed a meat allergy and can no longer eat hamburgers, pork chops or bacon.

"Tow hours after I had a hamburger, I started breaking out in hives," Wilson said. "I can't have ham. I can't have lamb and, probably, venison."

Dr. Saju Eapen said different ticks can pose different threats.

"People are bitten all the time and they can get many different problems with tick bites, like Lyme disease, or develop an allergy to red meats," Eapen said. "You can get simply symptoms such as hives and itching, but it can also lead to severe allergies and even death."

The meat allergy is triggered by the lone star tick, named for the Texas-shaped marking on its back.

Many people, including Wilson, never see a tick that bites them.

"I was a big, itchy blob," Wilson said. "I had no idea why I knew it was an allergic reaction."

With many of her favorite foods now off limits, Wilson said there's one upside: she's lost 87 pounds. But she said she doesn't recommend the diet.

There are treatments for the red meat allergy, but there's no cure.

Lone star ticks are found in Michigan, but are less common than the dog tick and the black-legged tick, which is the tick linked to Lyme disease.

About the Authors: