SWLA doctors say to watch out for ticks whose bites can cause a meat allergy

Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 6:06 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Summertime draws out many insects and arachnids, and if you are not careful, those bites could cost you your life. The lone star tick and the black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick, are two parasites whose bites could prove serious or even deadly.

“All it takes is one bite,” LSU Ag Center Entomologist Dr. Dinesh Erram said.

When bitten by a lone star tick, the same sugar molecule found in red meat enters the bloodstream, and once that happens it’s fight or flight.

“Because this sugar molecule went into your bloodstream, now your immune system recognizes it and starts producing antibodies against it and it’s ready to fight it in the future,” Erram said.

This leads to a red meat allergy.

New data from the CDC shows that this allergy is becoming more common, and it may affect hundreds of thousands of Americans.

“It’s a sugar molecule that causes an allergic reaction in some people,” said Pediatrician Dr. David Wallace of the Children’s Clinic of SWLA.

Wallace said it unfortunately can’t be reversed.

“The treatment for that is, you just can’t eat red meat, pork, or lamb for the rest of your life, the rest of your life,” he said.

When it comes to black-legged ticks, Wallace said their bites can lead to Lyme disease.

“Lyme disease from tick bites has a red center where the bite is and a red circle around it, it’s classic. It’s called erythema migrants.”

The illness can be treated - and exhibits symptoms like fever, muscle and body aches.

To keep the ticks away, Erram suggests using bug repellent and wearing long sleeves, even when it’s hot outside.

If you ever catch a tick in the act of trying to suck your blood, Erram said to use a tweezer and slowly pull the tick off from its head. Do not twist or try to kill it instantly while it’s still on your body – doing so can leave pieces of the tick inside of your skin, which can be dangerous.

In severe cases, symptoms such as paralysis can arise from being bitten by a lone star tick.