Bugging Out: How Tick and Chigger Bites Might Lead to Meat Allergies and Clogged Arteries

Meat allergies are on the rise, and ticks and chiggers are to blame. I previously wrote about how tick bites can lead to a mammalian meat allergy. It now appears that chigger bites can have the same effect. Chiggers are small red mites that cause extremely itchy bites. Recently, doctors discovered that patients who developed a sudden allergy to meat could trace their symptoms back to chigger bites.

These people developed an allergy to a carbohydrate molecule in mammal meat, called alpha-gal. But there’s something else you should know about these bug-induced meat allergies: not only do they make your life inconvenient by restricting your diet, but they could also clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease.

Meat allergies linked to heart disease

New research from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville shows that people with a meat allergy due to a sensitivity to alpha-gal have a higher risk of heart disease. The study included 118 participants who gave blood samples and underwent heart function tests. Those who produced antibodies to alpha-gal (indicating a mammalian meat allergy) had 30 percent more plaque in their arteries.

When plaque builds up in your arteries, it causes them to become hard and narrow, which restricts proper blood flow to your organs and increases your risk of stroke and heart attack. Even worse, the plaque found in the arteries of people with alpha-gal allergies was classified as unstable or high-risk plaque. This means it’s more likely to rupture, leading to a life-threatening blockage that results in a stroke or heart attack.

Prevention tips for avoiding critter-induced meat allergies

If you have a meat allergy, it’s crucial to pay extra attention to your heart health. Exercise daily, eat a healthy diet, and avoid meat from mammals. Like other allergies, mammalian meat allergies can dissipate over time—especially if you don’t get any more bug bites that could trigger an allergic reaction. To avoid those pesky ticks and chiggers, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid heavily wooded areas or areas with long grass when possible.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants in these areas—you may even want to tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so you can spot ticks more easily.
  • Change your clothes and shower after spending time outdoors.
  • Use an effective, natural bug repellent that deters ticks and chiggers, like one containing peppermint oil.

It’s essential to remember that, in most parts of the U.S., it doesn’t get cold enough to kill ticks, even during winter. Therefore, these precautions should be taken year-round.

In conclusion, be aware of the risks associated with bug-induced meat allergies—not only can they lead to dietary restrictions, but they can also have severe implications for your heart health. Take the necessary steps to avoid tick and chigger bites, maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle, and consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you may have an allergy to alpha-gal.