Tick bites could lead to severe food allergies - CBS 5 - KPHO

Tick bites could lead to severe food allergies

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Lone Star ticks have a small white dot in the center of their backs. Lone Star ticks have a small white dot in the center of their backs.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Spring is just around the corner, so it's almost time to dig out your camping and hiking gear. But before you do, doctors have a warning about a rare food allergy that's the result of something found in the woods.

September Norman knows her way around the kitchen, but the professional chef has had to make some big changes to her menu at home.

Last summer, she was camping at Fall Creek Falls with her family. They then had a steak dinner and called it a night.

"I woke up in the middle of the night with bad swelling and no phone service. We had to drive 5 miles to get in touch with 911," Norman said.

She was experiencing delayed anaphylactic shock.

At first, doctors thought it was an environmental reaction, but, the swelling later came back. That's when she told doctors about an itch on her leg that wouldn't go away.

"The fact that it was still itching so bad is what made me remember to tell him that I had a tick bite. He looks at me and said, 'I know what you have.' He hadn't even done the blood work yet," Norman said.

Tests confirmed the doctor's suspicion. That tick bite from six months earlier had caused Norman to develop a rare food allergy to red meat and dairy known as the Alpha-Gal allergy.

"Once you have it, it's indefinite. It doesn't happen to everyone that gets tick bites, but it is a known complication, so it's important for people to be careful during warm months," said Dr. Robert Valet, an allergist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Doctors say only bites from Lone Star ticks can cause this reaction, and those ticks are common in Middle Tennessee.

Now, Norman can't eat red meat or dairy, which means these days she tends to cook more at home.

"I call myself a Vegan who can eat chicken and fish. So, I say anything that flies, swims or comes out of the ground, I can eat," she said.

Norman also has to carry an EpiPen with her at all times as a precaution.

As far as protecting yourself while outside, doctors say wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts when hiking and always use insect repellent to try and avoid tick bites.

For more information on the allergic reaction from Lone Star ticks, visit: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/02/red-meat-allergies-likely-result-of-lone-star-tick/.

Norman is blogging about her experience with the allergy here: http://www.theunintentionaldiet.blogspot.com.

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