Now tick bites spark a deadly meat allergy – and even the SMELL of sizzling bacon can trigger a reaction including itching and breathing difficulties.
The bizarre allergy is quite rare but anecdotal reports suggest it may be rising NHS Highland wants to get a better idea of how people are affected by this
Hillwalkers and estate workers have been warned that tick bites could trigger a potentially fatal allergy to meat.
Eating a steak, burger or even certain sweets could cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Simply walking past a butcher’s shop, or the aroma of sizzling bacon, can trigger excruciating itching and breathing difficulties.
Cases of the bizarre allergy are relatively rare – but anecdotal reports suggest numbers could be on the rise. Now a Scottish NHS board is set to carry out research into the allergy.
NHS Highland wants to get a better idea of the number of people developing it and how they are affected. Ticks are also responsible for transmitting Lyme disease, which can cause debilitating neurological symptoms.
Hillwalkers and estate workers have been warned that tick bites could trigger a potentially fatal allergy to meat
LAMB NEARLY KILLED ME
Patrick Sinclair was bitten in 2016 and developed symptoms after eating lamb
Retired deerstalker Patrick Sinclair almost died after developing the rare allergy.
Mr Sinclair – brother of Liberal Democrat peer Lord Thurso – was bitten in 2016 and developed symptoms after eating lamb.
He said: ‘I got very itchy and took antihistamines. Next morning I had another nibble of lamb and that really set me off. I was struggling to breathe.’
Paramedics treated Mr Sinclair, 68, but he ended up in hospital weeks later after eating hare and venison.
A specialist told Mr Sinclair to lay off meat for three years. However, three months ago he had another reaction and blames a new tick bite.
Mr Sinclair, who lives near Loch More, Caithness, now keeps a life-saving EpiPen close by.
He said: ‘After a while without being bitten, my body stops being so sensitive. But the little nymph ticks get me, often in my own garden.’
Frances Hines, research, development and innovation manager at NHS Highland, said: ‘We’re aware that it is likely to be problematic for Scotland, specifically Highland, because of our high level of ticks. It’s partially to do with climate change – the warmer your climate gets, the more likely you are to support the incidence of ticks.
‘We don’t have a tick season any more in Highland – they’re all year round. Tick populations across the world are increasing and moving.
The meat allergy, Alpha-Gal Syndrome (AGS), is triggered by a specific sugar found in meat such as venison, beef, rabbit, lamb, pork and bacon.
The tick bite transfers the sugar molecule into the body which, in some people, triggers an immune reaction. Sufferers must also beware of dairy products and those containing gelatine, such as some sweets and medicines.
The syndrome was first reported by researchers in the US state of Virginia in 2009. Severity varies from person to person.
Ms Hines, whose partner has the condition, said: ‘It’s a very nasty disease and it’s largely up to the individual to sort it out.
‘If you get AGS it can build up over time. It can be very difficult to manage.
She has now drawn up plans for the first UK research into the condition.
Numbers affected are difficult to estimate – but out of 55 people in Ms. Hines’ department, two had family members with the allergy.
She added: ‘That’s a tiny sample but even if it’s one person in 100 or 500, it’s still quite a large number.’
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