Planning to take a hike in the woods this summer? Be on the lookout for a new threat in the form of a tiny tick that seems to have supernatural powers. If you get bitten, Lone Star tick symptoms can mimic food poisoning, or a severe allergic reaction. And, the Lone Star tick could force you to become a vegetarian, because one result of getting bitten by this insect is developing an allergy to red meat. Cue Mulder and Scully. While it sounds like it's straight out of the X-Files, this is actually not a science fiction storyline.
"You're walking through the woods, and that tick has had a meal of cow blood or mammal blood," Cosby Stone, an allergy and immunology fellow at Vanderbilt University, told National Geographic. "The tick, carrying Alpha-Gal, bites you and activates your allergy immune system."
What's more is that you might not even realize you're been infected until you get violently ill at a backyard barbecue after chowing down on a ribeye or hamburger. This is because your body creates Alpha-Gal antibodies, and rewires itself to fight Alpha-Gal sugar molecules, which are prevalent in red meat.
The ticks are mostly found in the Midwest, East Coast, and in southern parts of the United States. While not everyone who is bitten will develop the red-meat allergy, there are other illnesses you can contract from the ticks. If you think you've been bitten by the Lone Star tick, here are the symptoms you need to watch out for.