Tick bite could give you an allergy to red meat

A simple tick bite can lead to a meat allergy, and the ticks carrying this problem can be found all over Illinois.

It's the diagnosis that can turn a meat-lover's world upside down.

Lone star ticks are found across Illinois, and the problem starts with a carbohydrate called "Alpha Gal" found in the tick.

A lone star tick injects into your skin, you become sensitized to it -- just like you get allergic to penicillin -- and now when you eat red meats, you have a systemic allergic reaction.

Physicians first identified the allergy ten years ago. Since then, about 5000 people in the United States have contracted it. Doctors say many people have it and don't know it.

Symptoms can vary from abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and if it’s bad enough, hives all over your body -- some people even become unconscious.

“Alpha Gal” sufferers say it can be hard to give up red meat. But there is hope for those red meat allergies: if you stay away from red meats for a period of time -- 5, 7, 8 years -- a lot of this problem resolves.

Experts say use common-sense precautions to try to avoid tick bites. Wear long sleeve shirts and pants if you go outside in the woods, and always check for ticks afterwards.