How to live with the “beef allergy”


lonestartickI have lived in eastern Long Island for 31 years. I have always had cats and our yard always has had a Disney level of wildlife pass through. We are located right by the Rocky Point Natural Resources Management Area formerly known as the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), which has 6000 acres to walk and bike ride. This area was an extension of my yard. Some years, there would be bad tick years. Now, it is just bad all the time. We don’t go biking or hiking anymore. I do my best not to leave my deck and do not walk around my yard to reduce my tick exposure.

First, it was my husband about 6 years ago. It took months to figure out why he was itchy sometimes late at night. We would look at everything eaten that day. One particular day it seemed like it might be beef. We discovered that there was such thing as a beef allergy. Today, my mother-in-law, two of my three children and myself all have this “rare” allergy. I’m the only one seeking medical attention. So, it tells you right there, and Dr. McGintee confirms, that there are many more cases that probably go untreated.

Food at our house has changed as well as when we visit friends and family. We gave up mammal meat for poultry and fish. We haven’t gone down the reptile road yet but plenty of jokes there. Here is the tricky part of this allergy. One might say well you need vegetarian food. In theory that is true but not all vegetarian food is true to the vegetarian cause. A very small amount or trace of beef can get you a ride in an ambulance. At a barbecue, for example, the chicken cannot be cooked after the hamburgers. This also includes cross-contamination which happens all the time and is widely acceptable. Again, that little trace of beef that no one even knows is there can cause a problem. Since it takes about 6 hours to cause a reaction, it makes it hard to figure out what the original issue was.

Living with the “beef allergy” has not been an easy task. One of the major negative factors is the lack of informed people including the food industry and the medical professions. These two professions are so vital to the well-being of persons with this “new” allergy that is referred to as “rare”. We better hope this allergy stays in the “rare” category.

The aforementioned article in Newsday with Dr. McGintee from July 30, 2017 was an important newsworthy article. It took them 7 years but I’m glad they eventually thought they should cover it. I have to say they did a good job covering the history of the allergy and the unique parts of this particular rising health issue. As they say in the article – Don’t Panic.

The doctor, Dr. Erin McGintee, an allergist in Southampton, is the lead doctor and the only doctor on Long Island that is knowledgeable about this allergy. She is my doctor. This article should have a high impact on awareness geographically in the New York City area. But it probably didn’t help tourism.

Tourism is a variable that has to be factored in as well. This is why it is important to gain information about a new place you want to visit, such as a state park, because you can “visit” an area or go for a “walk” leaving your everyday space and then be bitten by a tick. It only takes minutes for the lone star tick to bite and inject you. Then you are itchy at 1 AM on the next day and have no clue why.

Why should we hope this allergy stays rare? You just cannot imagine all the places beef is or beef parts are used when you can no longer have the food because of it. How about white sugar, milk, anything with gelatin, all cold cuts, wine, hard liquor and bread, to name a few. When I had this allergy at its peak, I made everything including bread and cake from scratch so I could control the ingredients. No store-bought cake, cookies, snacks or bread. I could have Triscuit crackers and Fritos corn chips because the ingredients were true and very few. Yes, I communicated with food manufacturers too. I have to say this has been an education on reading labels. Why are we eating all this junk? There was very little for me to eat in a food store. I have to stress this allergy can vary greatly from person to person. Hence, why we need this allergy to stay rare.

I will visit Dr. McGintee in six months to see if I am finally rid of this allergy. They say it can fade and people have gone back to their regular diet. You just have to be careful and not get bitten again by the lone star tick. My past visits to the doctor indicate that my allergy is fading, but at a slow rate. I may have been bitten again and fading again. I am looking forward to eventually being allergy-free.

The Newsday article is available through Touro Libraries in the ProQuest database.

Contributed by Joan Wagner, Chief Librarian at Bay Shore


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