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Infectious Disease

Bug bites causing allergies? How to avoid dangerous tick bites

Deer Tick

A deer tick.Nikon Small World

As we transition into summer, it is expected that the now infamous lone star tick will continue to spread throughout the United States. 

When the lone star tick bites, saliva is injected into the victim that contains a specific sugar known as “alpha gal," according to research from the University of Virginia. In as little as a few weeks, this appears to cause an antibody surge that can precipitate a full blown allergic reaction after eating red meat, such as beef, pork and/or lamb, but not poultry.  

It’s important to be aware of health issues related to tick bites, and of course to plan ahead to reduce the likelihood of giving your favorite host a warm-blooded meal.  That means following some of the suggestions by the CDC:

1. Know your neighborhood.  Find out whether deer or lone star ticks are prevalent in your area.

2. Assess the risk of your activities and the chance of exposure to ticks.  

3. Know the proper way to apply both DEET and natural based insect/tick repellents, how long they protect and what concentration will provide adequate protection for adults and children.  

4. Consider dressing in light clothing to make it easier to spot very small ticks.

5. Always do a close inspection and check for ticks when returning from tick endemic areas.

6. Learn the recommended techniques for removing a tick.

7. Save the recovered tick for analysis by your local department of health. They can determine the type of tick and whether it contains the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

So be prepared - and avoid getting “ticked off” this summer!

Dr. Clifford Bassett is an adult and pediatric allergy specialist, and diplomat of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY.  Bassett is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and on the teaching faculty of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of Medicine and Otolaryngology at SUNY LICH. Follow him on Twitter.