Ticks are on the rise this summer, and it seems every week there's a new illness that stems from a tick bite. We've already shown you how you can reduce your chance of being bitten, what can happen if tick bites go untreated, and how to safely remove a tick if you do get infested with one.
This new type of tick spreading across the country, however, has some extremely serious side effects. The Lone Star tick, named for the Texas-shaped marking on its back, can permanently change your immune system and make you allergic to meat.
The Lone Star tick can potentially be a carrier for Alpha-Gal, a sugar molecule that causes the meat allergy. It essentially rewires your entire immune system.
According to Cosby Stone, an immunology fellow at Vanderbilt University, says Alpha-Gal gets spread if the tick that bites you has eaten cow or mammal blood before coming for you.
"The tick, carrying Alpha-Gal, bites you and activates your allergy immune system," Stone says. Your body then ends up producing anti-bodies to fight the allergen. However, when you go to eat meat after being bitten, your body will have an allergic reaction.
"There's a time delay in the reaction," said Stone. "It [the Alpha-Gal] has to first travel through your gastrointestinal tract to be released. Hours later, patients wake up with hives, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea."
In some cases, it can be much worse than some bathroom troubles.
"Some patients have had to be given life support because their blood pressure is so low that they're in eminent danger of dying," says Stone.
Click through to find out if there's treatment for this Alpha-Gal reaction, and what researchers believe is to blame for the rise in tick-related diseases.