Lone Star Tick Bite Can Make You Allergic to Red Meat

Lone star tick causes allergy to red meat
If you love your red meat, you want to be sure to avoid a tick found in the US south and east (see map above). It seems like a truly strange reaction to a tick bite, but more and more people are finding they can no longer eat red meat after being bitten by the lone star tick. The allergic reaction can be so severe that a person may need to go to the hospital emergency room.

Typically what happens is a person who has been bitten has an allergic reaction 3 to 6 hours after eating red meat. The reaction can vary in severity, and can include developing hives, swelling and issues with breathing. With those who have a severe reaction, the person can even go into anaphylactic shock and their airway can close. Many people have trouble diagnosing why they are having the allergic reaction since most people won’t think the reaction is caused by eating red meat, since this is something they have done their entire life without any problems.

The allergy develops from the alpha-gal sugar, which the lone star tick injects into their victims when they are bitten. Researchers believe that when the alpha-gal sugar gets into the blood stream, the immune system flags it as an invader, and antibodies form to destroy it.

The reason people are getting allergies to red meat after being bitten is that beef, pork and venison all contain alpha-gal sugar in their meat. When people normally eat alpha-gal, the digestive system simply breaks it down as it would other sugars. Once it’s been flagged by the immune system, however, the body won’t ignore the alpha-gal in the meat being consumed, and the antibodies attack that as well. This is why the allergy reactions are occurring.

It’s not known at this time if the allergy to red meats is permanent, or whether it will lessen over time. There have been some cases where the allergy dissipates after a time for some, but no comprehensive study has been done to determine how likely or unlikely this is for those who develop the allergy.

If this was the only consequence of a lone star tick bite, vegetarians and animal rights activists might be encouraging more people to get bitten by the tick. Unfortunately, that’s not the only issue the lone star tick can cause. In addition, they can spread the bacterial infections ehrlichiosis and tularemia. Tularemia has the potential to be a deadly infection.

As with most insect-born diseases, the best way to prevent getting them is to not get bitten in the first place. Here are some tips on making it less likely to be bitten by the lone star tick:

  • Stay out of areas with high grass and brush.
  • Stay on trails when hiking.
  • Use insect repellent when outside in areas where they are known to be.
  • Cover up as much as possible with long sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Wear light colored clothes, making them easier to spot if they do land on you.
  • Check yourself after being outside for ticks.
  • Have someone else check you as well since it’s hard to see all parts of your body.
  • Know the common places ticks go: under your arms, in and around your ears, inside and around your belly button, behind your knees, between your legs, around your waist and anyplace where you have hair.
  • Shower immediately after being in tick territory.
  • Remove ticks immediately if you do find one.
  • Keep the tick, once removed, to have it tested for disease.
  • Watch the spot for redness, which can indicate you were infected by the tick.

(Image courtesy of the CDC)

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19 Responses to Lone Star Tick Bite Can Make You Allergic to Red Meat

  1. scott says:

    I think I would starve to death if I ever was bitten by this tick.

  2. david says:

    What an absolutely horrid side effect to being bitten. It would ruin BBQ season forever.

  3. gina says:

    If it didn’t have other side effects, this would be a perfect way to get the nation off of needlessly killing animals for food. It might not be bad even with the other things. Think about how much healthier we would all be if people couldn’t eat red meat.

  4. devon says:

    Did you seriously just write that? This is why people hate vegetarians.

  5. David says:

    Cool!. That might be the animal responsible for the most significant reduction of global warming, since the red meat industry is the main contributor of CO2 caused by anthropological activities.

  6. Rod says:


    Having said that, ultimately, you would mean either God or evolution would be the main contributor to Co2. Go live in a cave with a loin cloth. The rest of us will continue on building the modern world.

  7. Really? says:

    This is why people hate you.

  8. Marisa says:

    And vegans! Crazy loons.

  9. Zostron says:

    Gina, do you realize you just advocated infecting people and damaging their immune system and overall health to further your cause? You would fit in perfectly with the Japanese Unit 731.

    This is exactly why rational people get sick of the constant barrage of agitprop from veterinarians and vegans, along with radical animal rights groups.

  10. Angelica says:

    I think this is great. Gina you are right. I hope there is a tick for pork and chicken also.
    I am a reluctant vegetarian, I love meat but hate the way animals are killed. They way animals are killed is horrible. People who have been bitten by this tick might want to watch some slaughter house videos. The meat craving is hard, just like the smoking craving.

  11. asfdasf says:

    I’m an avid meat eater (almost all my meals always have meat in them otherwise I don’t feel that it’s a full meal), but recognize that eating red meat is unhealthy for my cardiovascular health. While I try and limit my red meat consumption, I find it difficult as I enjoy it so much. With that being said, if I got this aversion (allergy) to red meat, I may be willing to welcome it, somewhat. So gina – I agree with you.

    I’m sick of the obese people eating away at our healthcare system. Red meat should be severely limited/taxed in a similar way that is happening to sugary beverages – this tick could be a great public health measure.

    And no, you aren’t “damaging one’s immune system,” it’s likely due to molecular mimicry where the tick introduces a molecule that looks very similar to a molecule found in red meat. People live long healthy lives with lots of different types of allergies.

  12. Renee Racine says:

    I actually have this condition. It put me in the hospital twice before allergy test revealed I had developed a beef allergy. In one instance I fainted and was unconscious until emergency workers arrived and shot me with an Epipen. Scared me and my husband immensely. The allergic reactions are crazy painful, you are on fire and can’t breathe. It was months before we started seeing reports that it might be caused by a tick bite. I really can’t say that I miss red meat and dairy now that I’ve gotten used to it (has been three years now). It is defiantly a healthy life style. However, I’m very glad folks are finally being warned. This isn’t a light matter by any means.

  13. Devon Nullman says:

    Numerous studies by leading institutes and universities have shown that carrots and other vegetables feel pain when they are harvested. I hope you are happy now, Gina.

  14. Linda says:

    My brother and I, both, became allergic to beef and pork in our forties! Our bodies become covered with huge hives everywhere a few hours after consuming beef or pork. Both of us spent plenty of time outdoors, hiking, camping and had various tick bites over the years. We never knew what caused this allergy, but, this makes some sense! Thanks for the article!

  15. Biomet says:

    It’s more like 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is about as much as the entire transportation sector. A substantial amount, but not the main contributor.

  16. Veggie Robert says:


  17. David says:

    Yeah you are right, and I’m pretty sure that if the allergy gets largely spread scientist would find a vaccine or something for it and people will keep eating red meat

  18. anne says:

    My husband developed this allergy 45 years ago and it is as strong as ever. Only recently we learned what made it appear so suddenly – one little tick bite. He can eat venison but not buffalo. We are so grateful for all the turkey and chicken sausages, bacon, etc. that have become available over the years.

    There could be worse allergies. We love our veggies. The hardest part has been remembering to warn hostesses when we are invited out to meals. Now, with all this publicity, it will be easier to do. He is definitely not a vegetarian so, if he is , forced to eat vegetables only when beef, pork or lamb are served, he does feel put upon!

  19. D.Smith says:

    Renee , I’m very glad to have seen your comment , my wife and I both have always enjoyed taking a break from our stressful jobs in Houston and going to our Lil’ Place 80 miles north of Houston in SanJacinto County where we can relax doing Outside work , trimming limbs,weeding flower beds , All in All just enjoying making our small place look pretty .Its probably been 2 years since we each started to notice that something was making us sick first thought it was Alergies , then we thought maybe the Heater or stove had a gas leak causing us to get Severe Migranes and feel as if we might have to go to Hospital ,along with having bad stomach aches and thought maybe what ever we had grilled might have been Bad from the market where it had been bought. And then within days the both off us would feel as though every bone in our body Hurt , it was as if we were Nearly incapable of walking , now this is making since to us . Please tell us more about your experience and how to find out for sure , that this is the Problem

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