The tick bite that can stop you from eating meat

Has a carnivore you know been throwing veggie patties on the grill lately? Maybe even steering the shopping cart toward the tofu turkey?

Don’t worry…they haven’t gone soft. It may not even be their choice.

Researchers have pinned down the cause of a bizarre, sudden allergy to red meat, pork and dairy.

And you can “catch” it by being bitten by a bug called the Lone Star tick.

Cases of this tick-born vegetarianism are on the rise. Anywhere there are Lone Star ticks, you’re at risk. And that’s about half the U.S.

Doctors have discovered that a “sugar” called “alpha-gal” is responsible. Ticks have it, people don’t.

And if you’ve been bitten, and then eat foods that contain this alpha-gal — like meat or dairy — your body can have an allergic reaction.

That can range from hives to breathing problems to full-blown anaphylactic shock after eating these foods. And you can get these reactions from 4 to 6 hours after being bitten.

But the big question is — how long will this allergy last?

Doctors aren’t sure yet if it’s temporary or will turn out to be a lifetime problem. Or it might go away, and then return if you’re bitten again.

Here’s a picture of a female lone star tick. The males, unfortunately, aren’t so easily recognized, and both will bite.

Image from

If you do get bitten, be careful when you eat any meat or dairy in the hours afterward. Watch for a reaction — and maybe keep some Benadryl handy.

And if you find any kind of tick attached to you, remove it immediately. Even if that means using your fingers. The longer it stays attached, the greater the chance of getting sick from it.


“This bug’s bite could turn you into a vegetarian” Gail Sullivan, August 10, 2014, The Washington Post,