NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After seeing more patients being diagnosed with a syndrome due to a tick bite, Vanderbilt researchers are raising awareness for parents.
It’s called Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS), and it causes stomach pain in children.
When you think of reasons behind that stomach pain, peanuts or seafood may come to mind, but you probably don’t think of a tick bite.
“It is one of those stranger than fiction kinda medical stories,” said Dr. Cosby Stone Jr., assistant professor of Vanderbilt Allergy and Immunology.
Stone and a research team have studied these unusual tick bites in children.
“Alpha-gal allergies sort of broke all of our conventional rules as to what allergy is supposed to look like.” He continued, “When you have a child that every now and again they are clutching their stomach, they’re throwing up and having diarrhea, and it happens regularly, that’s miserable for everybody.”
The Lone Star tick is the source of the problem. It’s found mostly in the South. Animals like cows, deer, and lamb have AGS blood sugar and the tick spreads it from animal to human.
“The tick happens to have it in its saliva. It injects it into your skin, and that’s what sets off the allergic response in some people – not everybody,” said Stone.
The tick bite can make you allergic to red meat and sometimes dairy.
“I don’t like conspiracy theories. But, this is like the time when the conspiracy theory came true. And the tick bite turns you into someone that’s allergic to the food,” said Stone.
AGS can be hard to spot. The symptoms often show up hours after eating red meat and the stomach pain often leads to a misdiagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Out of the 200 children Vanderbilt studied, 8% saw symptom relief by staying away from red meat.
“We’re just trying to eliminate suffering by figuring out an explanation. And I think that we actually achieved that. And that’s really exciting,” he said.
Ticks are often found where deer rest or graze. It’s suggested to avoid those areas and do your best to keep deer out of your yard. Garlic and onions are two natural ways to scare them off.