Being bitten by one of the spider-like bugs can trigger a severe allergy to meat, a new study has revealed.
Three cases of the strange reaction were recognized in the US. The patients suffered severe symptoms several hours after consuming red meat.
Researchers traced the delayed allergic response to bites from a tick – specifically the Lone Star tick.
A carbohydrate compound injected into the bloodstream by the bite is also present in meat. The initial bite is believed to programme the immune system to react next time it encounters the substance.
Dr Susan Wolver, from Virginia Commonwealth University, and colleagues said that the result when the unsuspecting victim tries eating a steak can be an outbreak of hives, or even life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
“Where ticks are endemic, for example in the south-eastern United States, clinicians should be aware of this new syndrome when presented with a case of anaphylaxis,” the Daily Mail quoted them as saying.
“Current guidance is to counsel patients to avoid all mammalian meat – beef, pork, lamb and venison,” they said.
When ticks bite, they get stuck onto the skin and feed on blood. Tick bites occur mostly during early spring and late summer months.
Simple ways to prevent tick bites include avoiding bushy and wooded areas with high grass, walking in the center of trails, and applying insect repellent.
Experts recommend taking a shower as soon as returning inside after exploring or working outdoors and also to perform a full body inspection for any ticks.
Remove the tick with tweezers by gently gripping it as close to the skin as possible and pulling it away from the skin.
The insects are also known to spread the bacterial infection Lyme disease. The most common early symptom is a red circular rash that develops around the bite.
If left untreated people can develop symptoms up to years later including muscle pain, swelling of the joints and temporary facial paralysis.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimates that there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year.
The study was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.