Man, 62, from New Jersey Develops Allergy to Steak and Burgers From Tick Bite

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By, Surabhi Ashok

Craig Smith, a man from Cream Ridge, New Jersey, developed an allergy to steak, burgers, and pulled pork after a singular tick bite.

The tick bite manifested into the Alpha-gal Syndrome, or AGS, in which the immune system attacks molecules specifically in mammal meat. It’s caused by the alpha-gal sugar that gets carried by the lone star tick after they take blood from animals like deer and cows.

Due to this, 62-year-old Smith has to abstain from most of his favorite meats and rather eat chicken, fish, and more vegetables instead. Even after a year, the condition has not let up, which means Smith’s diet may have to last longer than he wants it to.

The first indication of the disease was when Smith woke up to find sensitive and highly itchy rashes all over his body, from his arms to his back to even his legs.

After running a series of tests that came back positive, doctors quickly advised Smith to take any mammal meat like beef, pork, and lamb that may contain the alpha-gal sugar out of his diet as well as dairy products like milk and cheese. They informed him that whenever his body is exposed to this protein, his immune system will think of it as a threat from the tick and respond with an allergic reaction.

Although the reaction can differ from person to person, after eating red meat, an individual can experience hives, nausea, indigestion, swelling, dizziness, and even anaphylaxis that can be fatal without quick response.

Due to the severity of the allergy, Smith had to pay close attention to what he consumed. At first, he deeply struggled with the change, becoming easily irritated and going into a depression. However, he has now adjusted to his food options.