Saturday, October 8, 2011

What Do a Cow and a Tick Have in Common?

It's not a trick question.  Rather, it was my revelation of the week.  For those of you who don't know, I've been hounded by allergic reactions to beef for over a year now.  The onset was a mystery, and no matter how much research I did or how many people I asked, I have not been able to solve this rather inconvenient conundrum.

Until a few days ago.

A conversation with some friends led me to again do a Google search on beef allergies.  I had been thinking that for some odd reason, my usually healthy self had trouble producing the enzyme that digests red meat.  And then I read this article on a website called Allergic Living.  I encourage you to take a look, especially if you live in the South and have been bitten by a tick.  Here's the summary:

A Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills at the University of Virginia had a number of patients who were going into anaphylactic shock (which can be deadly) after eating red meat.  He had basically no explanation for the phenomenon, until he was bitten by a tick back in 2007.  Three months later, he woke up covered in hives after eating red meat for dinner.  Not so much fun, but a theory was born.

Sure enough, after asking patients who had developed the allergy if they had been bitten by a tick shortly before eating red meat, he discovered that they indeed had.  Every one.  Apparently, something in the tick - perhaps the saliva or another organism - reacts with a sugar in the meat, causing the production of an antibody, which then causes the allergic reaction.  Fascinating, but I have several questions that remain.

First, why me?  My husband has been bitten by ticks but has not (yet) developed a reaction.  My sister-in-law, who also had a reaction to red meat after being bitten by a tick, is A negative like me; we are wondering if there is a correlation.  Secondly, is there any supplement that I could take to counter this reaction?  And finally, how long does it take for the antibodies to work out of one's system?

A nurse friend of mine suggested keeping an epi pen and Benadryl on hand, which is wise.  As the last reaction I had involved cramps that rivalled labor pangs, I have no desire to experience that again and am wary that one of my children could develop a reaction.  I'd be curious to know if any of you have had a similar experience, or know anyone who has.


  1. Well, cramps that rival labor pain sound a lot like IBS to me (which I am prone to, unfortunately), but usually people have IBS reactions to more foods than just beef. Interesting research.

  2. I've heard IBS is NOT fun, and am so sorry you have to deal with it. These cramps I'm sure were a result of anaphylactic shock; there are a host of issues that can accompany this reaction, including closing of the airways...which is part of what makes it life-threatening. My nasal passages clogged the first time it happened, in addition to stomach pains anad hives. Fun times!

  3. Wow, that sounds so painful! But it's definitely an interesting connection.

  4. It is referenced to an anaphylactic reaction and a side effect is abd pain either in your uterus or intestines. It is not IBS.