Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Friday 16 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Bernadette Soubirous
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

You can catch a meat allergy — from a tick



Calah Alexander - published on 05/31/17

A Lone Star tick bite can lead to food allergy symptoms, like hives, itching and anaphylaxis.

Ah, summer. Time to head to the beach, go hiking and biking, and bust out the grill — unless, of course, you’ve had an encounter with the Lone Star tick.

According to, one New Jersey man began suffering from frequent hives and ferocious itching “four times worse than poison ivy” after a winter in Florida:

After enduring one misdiagnosis after another, Jerry Dotoli finally learned from a blood test that he had become allergic to meat, pork and dairy — the very allergens he’d been happily ingesting nearly every day. And the culprit? Most likely a bite from the Lone Star tick.

The Lone Star tick can transmit a dangerous Lyme-like illness called human ehrlichiosis, but what Dotoli got was something different. The tick transmitted an antibody that reacts to an alpha-gal, a carbohydrate in mammalian meat. When a person with this antibody eats meat, the alpha-gal triggers the release of histamine, causing typical food allergy symptoms like hives, itching, and sometimes anaphylaxis.

Read more:
4 Ways to reduce your anxiety about ticks

The difference between a meat allergy and a peanut allergy is time. People who are allergic to nuts react immediately, within minutes of ingestion. The meat allergy is delayed-onset, occurring three to six hours after ingestion. This makes the culprit more difficult to identify, particularly if meat is a standard part of the person’s diet.

The good news is that unlike most food allergies, alpha-gal allergy can diminish and disappear with time. Some patients recover completely in as little as eight months (provided they don’t get bitten by another tick), but some still have symptoms years after exposure.

Even the ones who don’t recover don’t have to give up the grill entirely, though — hamburgers and hot dogs might be off the menu, but chicken kebabs and grilled shrimp are still okay! Poultry and fish don’t have alpha-gal like beef, lamb, and pork.

Still, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so if you live in the eastern and southern US you should take precautions to avoid being bitten by the Lone Star tick. If you know you’ll be outdoors in a tick-friendly environment (humid, grassy areas), apply repellent with DEET to prevent tick bites. After you come in, make sure you check your clothes and body for ticks and shower within a few hours to get rid of any ticks that might have gone unnoticed.

For more tick prevention tips and information on how to remove ticks, visit the CDC website.

Health and Wellness
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Annalisa Teggi
Amputee from the waist down is thankful every day to be alive
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
Zelda Caldwell
Mystery of crosses on walls of Church of the Holy Sepulchre may h...
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
St. Faustina’s coffee cup and lessons for Divine Mercy Sund...
Philip Kosloski
St. Padre Pio: His life, his miracles and his legacy
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
Philip Kosloski
Catholic prayers for strength
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.