Reporting Joel Thomas
COPPELL (CBS 11 NEWS) - When Aldon Rutherford spends time at his ranch he comes home with good memories, beautiful pictures and, last August, two tick bites. Shortly after he was bitten, Rutherford ate a steak dinner.
A few hours later, “My feet started itching and it worked its way up,” Rutherford said. “I had huge hives around my waist. It was pretty ugly.”
It was even worse the next time it happened after Rutherford ate a hamburger.
“It took me three trips to the emergency room, and I didn’t have a clue as to what was the cause,” Rutherford said.
After some internet digging and talking with doctors, Rutherford learned he’d contracted the alpha-gal allergy from his tick bites. It causes a potentially deadly allergic reaction to the carbohydrates in any type of mammal meat. Rutherford is now very careful about what he eats.
“No beef, no lamb, no pork,” Rutherford said as he ticked off the foods he can’t eat and things he has to be wary of. “Nothing that’s touched meat. No meat derivate, my diet generally consists of chicken salad.”
But as Rutherford found out, each alpha-gal reaction is worse than the previous one. Even though Rutherford was careful to watch what he ate, a restaurant cut his chicken on the same board they used to cut beef.
“It came on so fast, my tongue swoll up so bad I couldn’t talk,” Rutherford recalled. I was like, ‘How big can my tongue actually get before it explodes?’ I mean, it was head to toe and less than five minutes and I was just blown up.”
Rutherford said he can’t even kiss his wife after she’s eaten meat. Even food that appears safe may not be as he and his wife found out.
“She was going to cook turkey sausage the other night and I had it all cut up and ready to eat it and she said, ‘Wait just a minute!’” Rutherford said. “And she looked (at the package) and it was in a meat casing.”
There’s no medical treatment. Doctors tell Rutherford the allergy may go away — in a few years. All that suffering from a simple tick.
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