One bite from this tick could ruin red meat for the rest of your life

  • A single bite from a lone star tick could cause hives, shortness of breath, or even death.
  • It’s not something they were born with, it’s something their body was taught to reject, by an uninvited little wilderness hitchhiker.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Imagine that you’re a red-blooded carnivore. You love burgers, steak, pork chops, bacon. But one day, out of nowhere, red meat starts to make you physically sick to the stomach. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s real, and it’s spreading.

It’s spreading to people like Amy.

Amy Pearl: My name is Amy Pearl, and I’m a producer for WNYC.

She has what is called a mammalian meat allergy.

Amy Pearl: I have a tendency to not mention it at restaurants, because I feel like if you say to a server, I’m allergic to meat, they’re gonna be like, I’m spitting in your food.

Any meat that came from a cow, a pig, or a lamb, will make Amy sick. Very, very sick.

Amy Pearl: Like I just had hives on my hands and my feet, and like all over my torso. I was nauseous, and I felt like I was fainting, I felt like the world was ending, I felt like I was gonna pass out and I couldn’t really breathe.

Thousands of Americans are suffering like Amy, but until 2009, this sort of allergy went undiagnosed.

Amy Pearl: I think I made an appointment with my regular physician, but he immediately was like, there’s no such thing as a meat allergy, has to be something else.

That changed with the cancer drug, Cetuximab. In a clinical trial, one in four patients developed severe allergic reactions to the drug. Some even died.

Naturally, Cetuximab was investigated. University of Virginia’s allergy department focused on one specific part of the drug. The key ingredient in Cetuximab is a specific carbohydrate that all non-primate mammals carry in their cell walls and tissues, Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or, if you’re pressed for time, alpha-gal.

Dogs have it, cats have it, and the mice cells involved in the production of Cetuximab have alpha-gal. The team discovered that those who had reactions were from only certain areas of the US, the southeast. The locations of the cases aligned almost perfectly with the range of a specific type of tick, the lone star tick.

Dr. Scott Commins is an allergist, and was working with the University at the time.

Scott Commins: Over 90 to 93% of our patients that developed allergic reactions to red meat and test positive by blood test will have a history of tick bites.

Amy Pearl: The thing I Googled was “sudden meat allergy.” I found an article that said there was some man in Florida, had gone into anaphylactic shock from eating meat after a tick bite. And I was like, “I had a tick bite!” I mean, I often have a tick bite. I’d just taken a tick off me.

One of the leading researchers, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, went so far to use himself in an unofficial experiment, taking a hike through a nest of larval ticks. It earned him a nice case of red meat allergy.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how this meat allergy works, but here is the leading theory. Ticks don’t have alpha-gal naturally, but they could be carrying it if they fed off a mammal, like a deer or a dog. If a tick then bites you, it trades some of your delicious blood for its saliva, which is a cocktail of nasty things. An enzyme in that saliva tells your body that there’s a variety of dangerous threats, and your immune system bans everything in that saliva from entering the body, including alpha-gal, which is also in every burger, steak, and bacon strip. So the next time you eat one of those, your body treats the carbohydrate like an intruder, and hits the panic button.

This is happening in the bodies of an estimated 5,000 Americans. What’s worse is that the range of the lone star tick is growing.

Scott: Their range is spreading into the Ohio River Valley and now up into Minnesota. We also know places where this alpha-gal red meat allergy exists, but they don’t have lone star ticks at all. And this would be southern Sweden, for example, there’s parts of Europe, Australia, and now even South Africa. So clearly other tick species can do this as well.

University of Virginia’s researchers have also linked the alpha-gal allergies with a higher risk of heart disease.

Scott Commins: This allergy seems as though it will often go away over time, but the problem has been that any additional tick bites seem to cause the allergy to return. And these are often patients who like to be outside.

Amy Pearl: I know that my numbers have gone down, because I’ve been retested a couple of times, but they’re still 10, 20 times what they should be.

Dr. Commins continues to work towards an immediate cure to mammalian meat allergy. In the meantime, the number of cases are rising.

Scott Commins: So what we’ve been trying to do is work on a vaccine related to tick saliva, in hopes that we can prevent the allergic response from continuing, or recurring, with additional tick bites.

If you’ve been bitten by ticks recently, be sure to get tested. If you haven’t, learn how to explore the woods safely.

Scott Commins: you may want to consider pre-treating your skin or clothing with DEET or Permethrin, respectively.

Amy Pearl: People are so freaked out about ticks, it’s not that bad. They’re much easier to see than you think.

Learn how to do a tick check after spending time in the wilderness. And if you value a juicy steak over a walk in nature, then maybe stay out of the woods.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in August 2018.

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9 of the best remedies we use to tame bothersome seasonal allergies

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  • Spring allergies affect us in many ways, making our noses run, our throats itch, and our eyes burn and water.
  • Thankfully, there is a wide variety of allergy remedies available, including several over-the-counter medications.
  • Below are the allergy products we here at Insider Reviews use and trust to get us through the season.

allergy allergies sneeze sick

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Editor’s note: Due to the fluctuation of online inventories, we’re doing all we can to keep up with out-of-stock items or those available in limited supply. We review each product’s availability weekly to assure our guides are properly updated, though sometimes this means one or more of the included items may be sold out, or available via a third party.

It all starts with a sniffle, maybe a sneeze or two. Before you know it, the airflow through your nose has been cut off, the itchy receptors in your ears and throat have been activated, and the flood gates in your eyes have opened. You’re reminded once again of the joy of combatting seasonal allergies.

It happens every year – but you’re not alone. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.1 million people have suffered from respiratory allergies in the past 12 months. I know I can speak on behalf of the Insider Reviews team when I say, we suffer right there with you.

This year, we’re doing our best to stay ready and have already prepped our arsenal of remedies – and we’re here to share a few of our favorites that help us keep those bothersome allergies at bay. So, stop scaring people away with your sneezes and let your roommates open the windows again. Spring is here to stay and it’s time for us allergy-ridden folk to enjoy it, too.

Here are the products we use to help relieve spring allergies:

Zyrtec 24-Hour Allergy Relief Tablets

Zyrtec

“Pollen is my kryptonite. As soon as I come in contact with it, my nose, eyes, and throat start itching and I know I’m going to be in for a miserable onslaught of sneezes and coughs. But unlike Superman, I have a remedy for my greatest weakness — it’s called Zyrtec. When pollen levels are high during the early spring, Zyrtec is a real lifesaver for me. I like to take it before I leave home so it’s already working when I come into contact with pollen. The best part is, it’s non-drowsy, so I can function normally throughout the day.” — Amir Ismael, Insider Reviews senior reporter

“If all else fails or I know I’m traveling to an allergen-ridden place, I take Zyrtec. Zyrtec usually makes my allergies disappear sooner or later but I can’t take it daily without my nose getting overly dry. However, it did save me from repeating the embarrassing experience of attending an important tech conference with a running nose, scratchy throat, and streaming eyes. Turns out taking allergy medicine before you go to a place with lots of allergens does work.” — Malarie Gokey, Insider Reviews deputy editor

“I’ve been a Zyrtec user for as long as I can remember, and I always make sure, regardless of the season, that I have a stocked bottle of it in my bathroom at all times. It’s the first thing I pack when going away and I’m quick to order another bottle when I still have plenty of it left. It’s that important.” — Rick Stella, Insider Reviews fitness and health editor

Nasacort Allergy 24-Hour Nasal Spray

Nasacort

“If your allergies typically leave you with an itchy, runny nose, or feeling congested, this nasal spray should give you some relief. It’s prescription strength but you can get it over the counter at almost any drugstore. No matter the season, I find this spray really helpful.” — Remi Rosmarin, Insider Reviews reporter

“If my allergies come at me full throttle, I pull out my trusted nasal spray, Nasacort, and use it every night before bed. As a person who is allergic to multiple things including pollen, cats and dogs, seasonal allergies, and some food products, I often have trouble sleeping when my symptoms are at their worst. This spray is handy because it works within 30 minutes of use.”  — Megan Foster, Insider Reviews fellow

Allergy 24-Hour Nasal Spray (1 pack) (small)
Flonase Allergy Relief Nasal Spray

Flonase

“When I feel an allergy attack coming on, I whip out my Flonase nasal spray. It quickly relieves sneeze attacks and typically prevents a full-blown allergy attack. I do have to use it sparingly or my nose will get too dried out.” — Malarie Gokey, Insider Reviews deputy editor

Philips Air Purifier

Philips 5000i Air Purifier

“Although I don’t have strong indoor allergies, I like to use an air purifier at home. The Philips 5000i features a total of six filters — two pre-filters, two HEPA filters, and two active carbon filters — that help reduce odors, gases, and allergens. I control it by using the AirMatters smartphone app or by asking Alexa. As the brand’s largest Connected air purifier, the 5000i is suitable for rooms like the living room or kitchen area of your home. If you plan on using it a smaller space, you can opt for the 1000i.” — Francesca Rea, Insider Reviews content producer

Puffs Plus Lotion Facial Tissues

Puffs tissues

“I used to buy those awful, cheap tissues that feel a bit like sandpaper because I feel like it’s wrong for nice tissues to cost so much. My poor allergy-afflicted nose finally forced me to pay a premium for Puffs tissues. Now they’re my go-to tissue for allergy season. When I get a particularly bad allergy attack, I buy the ones with lotion and they make a world of difference to my poor red nose.” — Malarie Gokey, Insider Reviews deputy editor

“The kind of tissues you use may not seem very important but when you’re using them over and over again in an effort to get just a little bit of relief from a constantly running nose, you’ll soon see just how crucial they are. These lotion-infused Puffs are a nose-saver, providing just enough softness to not completely turn your nose bright red from irritation after you use up an entire box in a day.” — Rick Stella, Insider reviews fitness and health editor

NeilMed Pharmaceuticals Original Sinus Rinse Kit

NeilMed Pharmaceuticals Original Sinus Rinse Kit Packets

“If you’re in need of some serious drainage, this Sinus Rinse bottle from NeilMed can help unclog your sinuses and get you back to breathing regularly. The jetstream of salt-laden water up your nostril feels like swallowing water at the pool but you’ll quickly understand the value of this sinus rinse when the pressure building in your head gets released into the basin of your sink.” — Danny Bakst, Insider Reviews story production manager

Clorox Wipes

Clorox wipes

“Technically this isn’t related to spring allergies but if you’re someone who is susceptible to allergic reactions all year round, keeping your room clean and dust-free can really help. Every so often I’ll use these to wipe down all surfaces in my bedroom. It helps clean up dust and anything else that might be giving you allergy-like symptoms.” — Remi Rosmarin, Insider Reviews reporter

Basic Care Saline Nasal Spray

Basic Care Saline Nasal Spray

“To mitigate dryness and to ensure my nasal passages are clean, I use a saline nasal spray regularly. Saline somehow magically prevents most allergy attacks I get and it helps me avoid getting a bloody nose from all the drying allergy medication I have to use.” — Malarie Gokey, Insider Reviews deputy editor

Claritin 24-Hour Non-Drowsy Allergy Tablets

Claritin

“When my body gets used to Zyrtec (it takes a week or so), I switch to Claritin. Similar to Zyrtec, it clears up my allergies within a few hours and works continuously as long as I keep up with taking the medicine.” — Megan Foster, Insider Reviews fellow

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