Co-Infections (Other Tick-Borne Diseases)

Lone Star: My Dad Got Bit by a Tick

Last week, my dad got bit by a tick. No, it wasn’t the kind that causes Lyme disease. Perhaps worse—at least in my brother’s opinion—it’s the kind that can cause an allergy to red meat.

How My Dad Got Bit by a Tick

Every year, my parents, my brothers’ families, and the four of us Brunkes enjoy a week near Ocean City, Maryland. While there earlier this month, we celebrated the Fourth of July.

This year, we opted to watch the fireworks from a new place: the riverside dock in our vacation community. Overall, I loved the new location. Without the crowds or traffic, we laughed and talked as the lights sparkled over the water.

Afterward, most of our crew piled onto a golf cart to get back to the beach house. Against my better judgement, my dad and I trekked through tall grass until we got to the road.

When we returned, I didn’t shower immediately like I should have, but I did wipe my legs down with a warm towel. If only I’d encouraged my dad to do the same.

The next day, he discovered an arachnid–a dot emblazoned on its middle–attached to his hip. It was the Lone Star tick.

Dad got bit by a lone star tick
Image courtesy of the CDC and Michael L. Levin, Ph.D.

I had to break the news to him that the Lone Star can induce an allergy to red meat called alpha-gal syndrome. My dad loves steak, hamburgers, and Italian sausage. To make matters worse, he eats a hot dog most mornings for breakfast.

“Well,” he said, “if anything could make me change my diet and start eating healthier, it would be this.”

At least he had a good attitude about it! Still, the discovery of the Lone Star tick spurred a week of jokes about Dad having to switch to the Beyond Burger.

Alpha-Gal Syndrome (AGS)

According to the Mayo Clinic, AGS “most often begins when a Lone Star tick bites someone. The bite transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into the person’s body. In some people, this triggers an immune system reaction that later produces mild to severe allergic reactions to red meat, such as beef, pork or lamb, or other mammal products.”

Suspect you might have AGS? Watch for these delayed reactions three to six hours after you eat red meat:

Alpha-Gal Syndrome Symptoms from Lone Star Tick

So far, my dad hasn’t experienced anaphylactic shock when enjoying his daily dog. Still, it usually takes at least four to six weeks from the tick bite for AGS to develop, so only time will tell. If he hasn’t developed the allergy by the time school starts next month, maybe he can continue eating the breakfast of champions.

Unfortunately, an allergy to red meat isn’t the only thing my dad could get from the Lone Star tick. This star-spotted arachnid also carries several diseases. Keep reading to find out which!

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