So, you're ready for summer, huh? You've got your big slab of meat to throw on the grill? Better hope the lone star tick doesn't come out and bite you! He could turn you vegetarian with just one chomp.
I know, I know, it sounds like a horror movie. But folks, this one is for real ... even if it sounds horrific to all you carnivores out there. Scientists are warning there is an honest-to-goodness arachnid who is making you his dinner ... and putting you off yours! And even as I close in on my 15-year anniversary of going vegetarian, I'm still scared!
The scientists who are warning meat eaters about the lone star tick -- named because of a white spot on its back, not because of any association with the state of Texas -- say that it can take just three to six hours from the time the little critter bites you until you start showing an allergic reaction to meat. So, you mow the lawn in the morning, go in for lunch, and wham-o, you break out in hives! Or worse, go into anaphylactic shock!
As much as I'd like to see more people turn vegetarian so I don't have to be the only one saying, "I'll take a grilled chicken salad, hold the chicken," the fact that this tick is showing up in the Bible Belt and up and down the East Coast has me freaked out. I'd rather people just turn veg because they realize how cool we all are. You're all welcome to come over to the dark side any time.
But I'd rather not see you forced there! I know people who have died from anaphylaxis.
Generally people with a known allergy that could cause something that serious carry around what's known as an epi pen -- something that can be injected to prevent anaphylactic shock after exposure to an allergen. But how many people know they've been bitten by a tick when it happens? We've been trained to check ourselves once a day because the tick that causes Lyme can't transmit the disease immediately.
The lone star tick warning could change everything! So spread the facts, folks!
What to look for: The lone star tick can be distinguished from other ticks by a white spot in the center of the back of the female.
What it does: The lone star tick does not transmit Lyme disease (good news there), but the University of Virginia researchers who have studied the meat allergy phenomenon are pretty sure the saliva of the tick is causing a rise in blood levels of antibodies for alpha-gal, a sugar found in red meat, lamb, and pork. In other words, the tick bite causes a meat allergy. How severe the allergy varies by person, but doctors say the best way to deal with an allergy is to avoid the allergen in the future ... which could mean going completely vegetarian for some people.
Where is it: Right now, the tick is found mostly in the Bible Belt and along the East Coast. It's been reported as far north as Maine, and as far west as Oklahoma and Texas.
How to protect yourself: Good news! The CDC says Permethrin and Deet-based skin repellents help repel these suckers!
What would you do if you had to go vegetarian for good?
Image via CDC