WEDNESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- A red meat allergy linked to certain tick bites has affected some Virginia children, researchers strongly suspect.
From September 2011 to May 2012, 45 children aged 4 to 17 developed itching and had trouble breathing after eating red meat, the study found. All had been bitten by a tick in the past year. Of these, more than 45 percent sought care in the emergency room for their symptoms, and 8 percent were admitted to the hospital.
Previously documented in adults, this phenomenon has been linked to the Lone Star tick, which commonly is found in the eastern and southern United States. Cases also are being reported in central states such as Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri, said study co-author Dr. Scott Commins, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Virginia.
The tick injects spit into the body when it bites, and the body develops antibodies to a carbohydrate in the tick's spit that is known as alpha-gal. This carbohydrate is also present in red meat, so when an infected person eats meat, an allergic reaction is triggered.
Unlike other allergic reactions that occur immediately, this reaction tends to occur within three to six hours after eating red meat.
"The reactions can be ... life-threatening, where an [epinephrine] pen is needed," Commins said.
The new findings appear in the May print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Because participants entered the study well after their allergic episodes and the researchers did not see their reactions firsthand, it was not proven that tick bites leading to meat allergy was the cause. Blood samples from the children, however, showed they developed antibodies to alpha-gal.
"Parents should look out for tick bites that remain persistently reddened and itchy, as well as for allergic symptoms that occur three to six hours after eating a m
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