Are Tick Bites Causing Your Food Allergies?
Reposted with permission from Rodale News.
They may be little, but those tiny, blood-sucking ticks can cause big problems with your health, including Lyme disease, babesiosis, bartonella, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis. And the list of tick-related ills just keeps growing. Doctors are now confirming a link between lone star tick bites and cases of severe red meat allergies plaguing patients in Southeastern states. Victims of the odd tick bite side effect have been reported in places like Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia, but doctors say the problem is spreading up the Eastern Seaboard fast.
Doctors are now confirming a link between lone star tick bites and cases of severe red meat allergies. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
According to Robert Valet, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt's Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program (A.S.A.P.), some patients are developing post-tick-bite allergies to the alpha-gal sugar present in red meat, causing symptoms ranging from diarrhea, difficulty breathing and a drop in blood pressure, to hives and swelling. Some patients are reacting to milk.
"It is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts," explains Dr. Valet. "The thought is that the tick has the alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite, and that causes the production of the allergy antibody that then cross-reacts to the meat."
Since the alpha-gal is stored in the animal fat, which takes several hours to digest, people with the allergy can go into delayed anaphylactic shock anywhere from four to six hours after eating red meat, making it difficult to diagnose. "It certainly is a big disruption for a lot of people's lives," explains Dr. Valet. "Things like your classic barbecue really become off limits."
Repeated tick bites can raise the level of allergy antibody, so Valet warns people with this allergy to avoid even small quantities of red meat and milk. He also suggests carrying an EpiPen in case a person suffers from an exposure and needs to self-treat.
Whether you're affected by the allergy or not, it's important to practice good tick-avoidance procedures:
Strip down as soon as you step inside.
Remove your clothing, toss it in the washing machine and jump in the shower as soon as you walk inside the house after spending time outdoors. Be sure to then throw your freshly washed clothing into the dryer to kill any lurking ticks.
Get to know your private parts well.
Your groin maintains the perfect humidity for ticks looking to hide in moist, dark areas. The bugs also attach to the back of men's scrotums or women's bikini lines, so be sure to perform a thorough check of your groin and buttocks area at least once a day using a magnifying glass and/or mirror to see more hidden areas.
Treat your shoes.
Although we don't normally recommend chemical treatment, we understand how debilitating tick-borne diseases can be. So rather than applying toxic DEET directly on your skin, try getting a pair of outdoor gardening or workout shoes treated with Insect Shield instead.
Plant some beautyberry bushes.
The leaves of the American beautyberry bush possess tick-repelling qualities, so try working a few into your landscape.
Clean up your woodpile.
Moist, wooded areas are most inviting for ticks. Sunny, dry conditions are not. So keep any woodpiles outside in a spot that gets lots of sun to dry them out faster.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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