May 8, 2013
Doctors at UVa. have been studying the saliva of the Lone Star Ticks to understand why some people are developing allergic reactions to red meat after a tick bite. It's a diagnosis that has only been around for several years but now, it is showing up in children.
Scott Commins, UVa. Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, said, "We've known about this idea that adults can have tick bites that lead to an allergic response after they eat mammalian meat for several years now and, only recently, have we extended this into children."
Patty Kingsley remembers the night her 13-year old daughter, Cassie, had an allergic reaction to red meat because of a tick bit.
Patty Kingsley described it as, "Terrifying. Absolutely scary and terrifying."
Cassie Kingsley had pork chops for dinner one night and three hours later the reaction started. Unlike other food allergies, the symptoms don't show up until three to six hours after eating red meat. The allergy is very different between each individual.
Cassie Kingsley said, "My lip felt like it was burning almost. Then, I looked in the mirror and it looked like it was swelling. It started swelling and my face started swelling and my throat started to close."
Dr. Commins and his team are studying the saliva of the Lone Star Tick. They want to know what is causing some people to have reactions to red meat after a tick bite.
Commins said, "One of the hallmarks for someone who is going to develop this is that they have a really brisk reaction to the site of the tick bite. It gets red and inflamed and itchy and it persists for some period of time."
Commins does believe that the meat allergy could go away if a person were to avoid ticks all together.
Commins said, "If your hobbies take you outside, you're going to have additional tick bites. Part of finding the treatment is is understanding what it is that triggers response initially."
People with this allergy have to avoid any kind of product from mammalian animals. These include pigs, cows, and lambs. This allergy has changed the life and diet of Cassie Kingsley forever.
Cassie Kingsley said, "Once you get used to it, it's not as bad as you think."
Patty Kingsley said, "If something unusual is going on and you have this inclination that your kid is having some kind of reaction, get her tested. Know that stomach cramping and chest palpitations are also symptoms."