The Tiny Tick Trick - Mammalian Meat Allergy

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If your nose gets stuffy or begins to run after eating meat, or you become nauseated or develop a rash, you may have a meat allergy as a result of being bitten by a tick, probably the paralysis tick. Tick bites can cause mild to life-threatening allergic reactions to eating meats such as beef, pork, lamb, kangaroo, goat and venison.

The allergic reactions to meat are typically delayed for 2-10 hours after eating the meat. This tick-induced allergy is called Mammalian Meat Allergy. It is the commonest presentation of a serious tick-induced allergy and is an emergent allergy that has become increasingly prevalent in tick-endemic areas of Australia.

While the “tick season” is often considered to range from around February to August, when adult ticks are more prevalent, ticks are present all year round. Therefore the risk of exposure to ticks remains throughout the entire year.

Mammalian Meat Allergy is due to a reaction to a carbohydrate which is present in all mammals (except humans) and is therefore in all mammalian meat (and mammalian products) eaten by humans. The allergic reaction occurs because of a salivary protein injected by a feeding tick when it is disturbed. Not all species of ticks inject this protein but there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that it may be more than one species, so any tick bite should be treated with caution. Cases of fatal tick anaphylaxis have been reported in Australia.

The general lack of awareness of the existence of the Mammalian Meat Allergy makes early detection an issue.

If a tick bite does occur, then killing the tick whilst avoiding any compression of the tick when it is removed, significantly limits the possibility of tick-induced allergies occurring. Ticks will fall off once they have engorged themselves but waiting is not comfortable nor advisable.

The best method of removing a tick is to use some form of freezing agent that will rapidly freeze the tick (it will release its grip and fall off) and stop the injection of tick saliva. This may mean a trip to the doctor or the chemist. There are plenty of other natural suggestions which may or may not work. A safe method is a 30 minute bath with 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda which may help to dislodge ticks.

Unlike some other allergies, there is no desensitisation or allergen immunotherapy available for mammalian meat allergy or tick bite allergy at present.

Treatment of mammalian meat allergy involves total avoidance of meat from mammals. People who also react to gelatine and dairy need to avoid foods and products containing gelatin or dairy as well. This includes some medical products.  A diet with plant based protein, or chicken and fish is an alternative to mammalian meat products.

If you develop symptoms of mammalian meat allergy, get medical help immediately. Symptoms may get worse quickly and can become life-threatening.

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