In August, a Reddit user posted to make the internet aware of the life-threatening allergy they gained late in life — from a tiny tick bite.
Ticks are small insects, and their bites are mostly harmless. However, many ticks carry diseases such as Lyme disease, and, as Time magazine reports, those diseases are likely to become more common in the near future. The world is heating up due to pollution that traps warmth in the atmosphere, so the warm part of the year when ticks are active is growing longer.
As this unfortunate Redditor discovered, one illness related to ticks is “alpha-gal syndrome,” an allergy to red meat.
“I was bitten by a [Lone Star] tick while hiking and now am severely allergic to meat,” the Redditor said in a post on a subreddit. They also shared a photo of two EpiPens to treat an allergic reaction and an information card about alpha-gal syndrome.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, alpha-gal is a sugar molecule found in most mammals and their meat. It isn’t present in humans, but it is in beef, pork, venison, lamb, and rabbit, as well as milk, dairy products, gelatin, and seaweed. When someone with an alpha-gal allergy eats any of those items, they can experience anaphylaxis, a dangerous allergic reaction that can make it impossible to breathe and needs immediate medical attention even after using an EpiPen.
The original poster’s allergy card details the condition and clarifies that they can’t eat even small amounts of these foods. It also warns food workers to use clean gloves, utensils, and cooking oil when preparing food for the original poster.
“That’s some life-changing stuff,” said one sympathetic commenter.
“Luckily it’s rarely life long; it typically subsides in one to five years,” another user replied.
To prevent alpha-gal syndrome, the CDC recommends avoiding tick bites. When spending time outdoors, use bug repellent and avoid tall grass and brush that can hide ticks. When you come in, check your skin and clothing for the bugs. If you do have a tick attached, remove it immediately, taking care not to break or squeeze it.
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