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Advances in health and medicine.
Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Asthma & Allergies Channel
Reported August 31, 2014

Watch That Bite: Ticks Can Turn You Vegetarian

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Summertime is all about getting outside and firing up the grill for an all American barbeque. However, here is a warning out where for meat lovers. A small, but growing outdoor danger could take that away from you.

What started out as a tick bite in September Norman’s front yard nearly took her life weeks later.

Norman told Ivanhoe, “I played golf and grilled some steaks, and at about 2:30 in the morning I woke up and my hands were on fire.

September Norman was going into shock.

Norman told Ivanhoe, “My tongue and lips started swelling to the point that I could barely speak.”

Emergency responders treated her and sent her home, but a pork dinner that week landed her back in the ER. That’s when she mentioned the still itching tick bite to her doctor.

Norman said, “He looked at me and says I know what you have. You have alpha-gal and I went, alpha what?”

Allergist at Vanderbilt University, Robert S. Valet, MD says alpha-gal is a sugar found in red meat. Bites from the “lone star tick” trigger an allergic response.

Valet told Ivanhoe, “They’ll have this bite and never have had any issues before but maybe days later can have these really life-threatening reactions out of the blue.”

This means that those with the alpha-gal allergy must give up all red meat.

Valet told Ivanhoe that this includes, “Beef, pork, lamb, goat, even game like deer or rabbits.”

Valet says cases are on the rise and more than 1,000 have been reported nationwide.

September Norman has totally changed her eating habits.

Norman tells Ivanhoe she eats a diet consisting of, “Chicken, fish, and vegtables.”

She has also started a blog to help get the word out. It is called “The Unintentional Diet.”

Doctors say the best defense against the reaction is prevention. This means wear long clothing, use insect repellent and check for ticks after you have been outside.

There is no cure for food allergies, so those with the allergy to alpha-gal will likely always experience a reaction to red meat. A blood test can confirm if you have the allergy. 

For additional research on this article, click here.

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If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Kim Groves at


Craig Boerner
Media Director, National News Director
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Phone:  615-322-4747
Or check out September Norman’s blog at:

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