Mixed opinions on tick bites as the cause of meat allergies - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Mixed opinions on tick bites as the cause of meat allergies

RICHMOND (WWBT) - It is a theory that has the medical community divided. Are tick bites leading to dangerous, even possibly deadly red meat allergies? There is evidence of a connection, but one Richmond doctor is not convinced.

It is a scary problem, with a complex name. "Delayed anaphylaxis" causes people to have violent allergic reactions 4 to 6 hours after they eat red meat.

It develops without warning, and doctors are trying to figure out why. It is serious enough to put your life in danger, like it did for Susan Morrison.

"All at once my throat started closing and I couldn't swallow," she said.

After Morrison got her severe allergic reaction under control, it was time to figure out what was wrong.

"They did all the tests and said you have no allergic reaction to seafood or shellfish," two things Morrison had eaten prior to the allergic reaction.

The culprit turned out to be meat. The reaction did not occur until several hours after the fact. It is a unique form of allergy, which doctors are just starting to figure out.

"It is a special almost separate disease," said Dr. Ananth Thyagarajan.

But in the search for a cause of delayed anaphylaxis from meat, doctors have come up with a crazy cause: Tick bites. Richmond allergist, Dr. Thyagarajan agrees there is a correlation. Tick bites and delayed allergies to meat have both gone up.

But a correlation only tells half the story. For instance, in the past 50 years computer use has gone up dramatically. At the same time pirate attacks have gone way down. But do those two things have anything to do with each other?

They haven't created that causal relationship that the tick bites are causing the delayed anaphylaxis," said Dr. Thyagarajan

For Susan Morrison, the correlation is strong and was enough to make her a believer.

"When they first did the testing the nurse asked, ‘Have you noticed a bad tick bite?'," she recalled. "I said oh my goodness yes!"

And Dr. Thyagarajan isn't willing to rule a causal relationship out. He just wants to see more research.

"We are asking the proper questions now, more than we were 5, 10 years ago,"

Meaning we could know something definitive sooner rather than later.

Even though the science is quite yet 100% it is still worth it to avoid tick bites. The creatures still carry things like Lyme's disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which are worth avoiding.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.

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