Cleveland woman warns parents after her son was bitten by Lone Star tick

Cleveland resident Amber Olinger is warning parents after a Lone Star tick bit her son Aiden. (Images: WTVC, CDC)

A Cleveland mother is warning other parents after her son was diagnosed with a red meat allergy - all because of a tick bite.

The Lone Star tick is native to the southeast, like right here in Chattanooga.

As a young and avid outdoorsman, Aiden Olinger says he didn't think anything was out of the ordinary after a long day riding ATVs in 2016.

"I checked for ticks like I normally do and I realized I had a tick bite and got it off," says Aiden.

At first, he says it felt like he had the flu. "I was sick to my stomach and noticed I couldn't eat everything," he says.

But his mother says his condition got worse.

"He missed probably 37 days of school that year," says Amber Olinger.

Two years after the tick bite, his mother says an allergist confirmed he had Alpha-gal, an allergy to red meat developed after being bitten by a Lone Star tick.

Erlanger Emergency Medicine physician Dr. Doug Gregorie says the species of tick common here and around the southeastern part of the U.S.

"In the process of biting someone, a tick actually will, unfortunately, regurgitate some of what it has previously eaten," says Dr. Gregorie.

Dr. Gregorie says it's more than just the bite that causes the allergy to red meat.

"But you develop the antibodies from the tick bite that then cause the allergic reaction when the person eats red meat," he says.

With symptoms of hives, skin rash, nausea, headaches, and sneezing, his mother says she wishes they knew more before the bite, so they could have seen doctors sooner.

"But just educate yourself, you know, don't stay inside. We live in a beautiful place, just kind of take precautions," says Amber.

The good news? Aiden's mom says he can now eat red meat again. She just hopes telling their story can help another family.

Amber says her son's symptoms weren't immediate after being bitten by the tick. Dr. Gregorie says it can take anywhere from five to six hours before you see any symptoms.

Bug spray and checking for ticks after being outdoors can help. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned, call your doctor.

You can learn more about Lone Star ticks and tickborne diseases on the CDC website here.

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