Are tick bites and food allergies related? While it seems unlikely that the bite of a tick would have anything to do with a food allergy – new research suggests otherwise. Recently scientists discovered that the bite of tiny eight-legged ticks can bring on a meat allergy. One more reason to stay out of the woods without insect repellent.
Can a Tick Bite Cause a Meat Allergy?
Immunologists at Royal North Shore Hospital in Australia noted that some of their patients who developed meat allergies had been bitten by a tick and had experienced a more severe reaction to the bite than what is typically seen. A significant number had developed severe symptoms including difficulty breathing or throat swelling, which is not usually seen with a garden-variety tick bite.
After recovering from their tick bite, some of these patients went on to develop severe allergic symptoms when they ate red meat such as intense itching, hives, and even more serious allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing. This was surprising since meat allergies are relatively uncommon compared to other food allergies – and these people had been able to eat red meat before their tick bite. That’s when doctors started suspecting tick bites were playing a role in their meat allergies.
Meat Allergies and Tick Bites: How Does a Tick Bite Cause an Allergy to Meat?
Researchers believe that the body produces a special antibody in response to a tick bite that can trigger meat allergies in certain individuals. This antibody binds to a sugar in meat called alpha-galactosidase. When it does, histamine is released which triggers the allergic response to meat.
These meat allergies differ somewhat from typical food allergies. With most food allergies, symptoms develop within minutes after eating the offending food, but people with meat allergies related to tick bites usually don’t experience symptoms until three or more hours after eating red meat. The reaction is typically severe with difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, and, sometimes, loss of consciousness.
Fortunately, not everyone develops meat allergies after a tick bite. There may be a genetic susceptibility that causes some people to develop a meat allergy after a tick bite since scientists have observed that people with certain blood types are more likely to have this problem.
Can Tick Bites Cause Food Allergies: The Bottom Line?
In some people, a tick bite could be followed by an allergy to meat. When you’re outdoors, stay covered as much as possible – and wear an insect repellent. Do a full body search for ticks on you and your pets when you come in from outdoors. Don’t forget that ticks can cause other serious diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme’s disease. Give them the respect they deserve.
Ivanhoe.com. “Tick Bites Spark Allergies – Science Insider”
Medical News Today. “Tick Bite Link To Meat Allergy, Medical Journal Of Australia”
Washington Post. “Was it a sudden seafood allergy? No.”