Tick season is upon us here in Indiana, and there's one tick in particular that should be very concerning.

Growing up here in Indiana, I always played outside. I'm sure that you had a similar upbringing where you'd play outside all day and as soon as you came inside, your parents said the same thing that my parents told me. "We need to check you for ticks."

None of us really wanted to take the time to get examined from head to toe for ticks, but as always, your parents knew best. If you were lucky, you were all clear of ticks. However, sometimes there would be one attached to you. That's when the tweezers came out and the "fun" would begin. Sometimes those ticks could be a little stubborn when being pulled off of you. Then, you'd hear about how some of these pests could carry disease, and you'd worry about contracting Lyme Disease.

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We all know the drill when it comes to ticks and how to protect ourselves from these dreaded insects. However, it never fails no matter how many precautions you take, you'll still find yourself bitten by a tick. As you know, there are a variety tick-borne diseases, the most common of which is Lyme Disease. As if you needed one, there's another reason to fear tick bites in Indiana.

The Lone Star Tick

The lone star tick is typically found in damp wooded areas in southern Indiana. In fact, this is the second most commonly encountered tick by humans, coming in right behind the dog tick, according to Indiana Lyme Connect.The greatest risk of being bitten by the lone star tick during the year is in the early spring through late fall. There are a few ways to spot them out in the wild:

  • Adult females typically have a white dot or “lone star” on the back
  •  They have a more rounded body shape than other tick species
  • Their coloring ranges from reddish-brown to tan
  • Usually are found in tall grass, in the shade or at the tips of low-lying branches and twigs
Close up of lone star or seed tick in macro on a male finger isolated on white

Getting bitten by this tick could have some serious side effects. Lone star ticks have been linked to the spread of:

  • Tick paralysis (adult female stage only)
  • Alpha-gal allergy (which causes an allergic reaction to mammal products)

That's a lot of potential problems as a result of a tick bite. None of which are things that you want to mess with. A few of them could be potentially deadly to humans. One in particular that I want to talk about is Alpha-gal.

Potentially Deadly Food Allergy Caused By Ticks

Alpha-gal is a sugar molecule found in meat (pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, venison, etc.) and products made from mammals (including gelatin, cow’s milk, and milk products), according to the CDC. Ticks can pick up Alpha-gal from a previous mammal that they have bitten and can transfer the sugar to humans through their saliva when they bite or feed. Thus causing a serious and potentially deadly condition known as Alpha-gal syndrome.

According to the CDC,

Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) (also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy) is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. AGS is not caused by an infection. AGS symptoms occur after people eat red meat or are exposed to other <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/alpha-gal/products.html">products containing alpha-gal</a>.

Alpha-gal Syndrome Symptoms

The transfer can take hours or up to a day from tick to human. Allergic reactions caused by Alpha-gal Syndrome can range from mild to severe or even life-threatening. Symptoms vary from person to person, but here are a few of the most common symptoms, according to the CDC:

  • Hives or itchy rash
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, or eyelids
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Severe stomach pain

When it comes to the allergic reaction from Alpha-gal Syndrome, it can take up to eight hours for people to see symptoms after eating meat. This makes it hard for most people to identify what caused the reaction. The main thing to keep in mind is that there appears to be no treatment for getting rid of alpha-gal Syndrome, other than not eating foods from mammals. What’s more, it is unknown why some people have a serious reaction to alpha-gal while others don’t.

You can learn more about this deadly meat allergy caused by the lone star tick, and how to prevent, diagnose, and prevent it by clicking here.

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