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'My hands were swelling, my feet were swelling': This tick-borne illness can cause serious allergy to meat

According to Langford Allergy, a clinic in Milledgeville, Alpha-Gal is relatively new to the allergy world – only appearing 10 to 15 years ago.

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Tick season is fast approaching as the weather gets warmer. 

The lone star tick is the most common in Georgia, and if it bites... it can transmit several diseases to humans.

Alpha-Gal. Ever heard of it?

It's a tick-borne illness that essentially makes you allergic to mammalian meat such as beef, pork, lamb, venison and others.

In Milledgeville, there's someone living with the disorder.

"I told my wife, I said, 'Call 911 and I'm going to go ahead and use the EpiPen.'"

Coy Hollinshead, a Milledgeville pastor, was bitten by a lone star tick four years ago. Since then, he has gone into anaphylactic shock at least once every year. His last attack was this past October.

"My hands were swelling, my feet were swelling," he said. "When I went to tell my wife that I was gonna walk outside to shake the anxiety off, I couldn't talk because my throat was closing up." 

Hollinshead says you don't realize how many things contain meat products.

"Everything that we eat has to be thoroughly thought out. I read every ingredient on boxes that I go over," Hollishead said. 

He says he's adjusted to living with the allergy and with a new diet.

"It still changes your life, I mean you can't just go into a restaurant, sit down, and just eat whatever you want. You have to worry about cross contamination in restaurants," he said. 

But he tells others that he "wouldn't panic just because I got a tick.” 

Hollinshead says he doesn't know when or where he got bit, and pediatrician Dr. Christy Peterson says that's pretty common. 

"I think the tick illness that is the problem is the one where you don't remember the tick bite," she said.

Peterson is a pediatrician from Atrium Health Navicent. She says that there are plenty of tick-borne illnesses. 

"I think that there's probably more out there than we will actually diagnose and know,” she said. 

So, if you're bitten by a tick, Peterson says it's not a big deal. 

She described the best way to remove a tick if you spot one.

"Grab the tick with the tweezers as close to your skin as possible and pull the tick out, and know that the tick illness could present as late as two weeks after the tick bite,” she said. 

Peterson says you can try to avoid tick bites by covering up as much skin as possible and wearing insect repellent while in tall grass or hiking. 

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