COLUMBIA (WACH) --- What started out as a tick bite in September Normanâ??s front yard nearly took her life weeks later.
â??I played golf and grilled some steaks, and at about 2:30 in the morning I woke up and my hands were on fire,â?? says September Norman, patient.
September Norman was going into shock.
â??My tongue and lips started swelling to the point that I could barely speak,â?? says Norman.
Emergency responders treated her and sent her home, but a pork dinner that week landed her back in the ER. Thatâ??s when she mentioned the still itching tick bite to her doctor.
â??He looked at me and says I know what you have. You have alpha-gal and I went, alpha what?â?? says Norman.
Allergist at Vanderbilt University, Robert S. Valet, MD says alpha-gal is a sugar found in red meat. Bites from the â??lone star tickâ?? trigger an allergic response.
â??Theyâ??ll have this bite and never have had any issues before but maybe days later can have these really life-threatening reactions out of the blue,â?? says Dr. Valet.
This means that those with the alpha-gal allergy must give up all red meat.
â??Beef, pork, lamb, goat, even game like deer or rabbits,â?? says Dr. Valet.
Valet says cases are on the rise and more than 1,000 have been reported nationwide.
September Norman has totally changed her eating habits.
â??Chicken, fish, and vegetables,â?? says Norman.
She has also started a blog to help get the word out. It is called â??The Unintentional Diet.â??
Doctors say the best defense against the reaction is prevention. This means wear long clothing, use insect repellent and check for ticks after you have been outside.
There is no cure for food allergies, so those with the allergy to alpha-gal will likely always experience a reaction to red meat. A blood test can confirm if you have the allergy.