Chef tells experience fighting severe tick-borne food allergy - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Chef tells experience fighting severe tick-borne food allergy


A severe case of food allergies brought on by a tick could have killed a local chef, and now she has a warning for others.

Red meats and dairy are now out of September Norman's diet. As a chef, food has been her life, but she almost lost her life because of those foods on a family trip this summer.

"I was awoken about 3 in the morning with severe itching. My hands were on fire," Norman said. "My face looked like a giant red balloon. My lips were red like I had on bright red lipstick, and I was just very swollen."

She was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors ruled it as some kind of allergic reaction. But even with an EpiPen and steroids, three days later, Norman was back in an ambulance.

And that's when she started to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Norman remembered that about six months prior, she was doing some yard work when she was bitten on the foot by a Lone Star tick.

The type of deer ticks with the white star on their backs are becoming more common in the Southeast, and their bites have been diagnosed as the cause of delayed food reactions.

"There is some evidence that these ticks contain the alpha-gal sugar. That is the carbohydrate people react to in their guts, so they are introducing it into the skin," said Vanderbilt University Medical Center allergist Dr . Robert Valet.

It is the same sugar that in red meat can cause the severe allergic reaction.

The bad news is the allergy won't go away, so Norman now spends more time and money finding those hidden triggers on labels.

"Some of my vitamins had pork in them. I can't have anything with gelatin, because that's meat," she said.

But, on the bright side, she does plan on using some of the substitutes she's discovered to work on some new recipes.

Doctors recommend wearing repellent and checking for ticks any time you go outdoors. And if you do have a persistent itching, see an allergist and get tested.

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