The parents of 6-year-old Izzy Loveless had no idea a tick bite could do such damage.
A lone star tick, noticeable by a white spot on its back, bit Izzy. The tick bite caused Izzy to develop an allergy to all red-meat.
“Izzy, her brother, and sister were down playing in a wooded area near the creek on our property between Mulvane and Derby,” Izzy’s mother Tara said. “That’s where we think she picked up the tick.”
Tara Loveless said her and husband, Chris, checked the children for ticks but missed one on Izzy.
“We found it a few days later on May 12 in her hair,” she said.
The Loveless’s habitually save ticks found on the kids just in case.
“A few weeks later Izzy started getting sick and vomiting,” Tara Loveless said. “We thought she just had the flu. My mom, Jeanie Meirowsky from Florence, mentioned an article she had recently read in the Wichita Eagle about ticks. We started noticing that she got sick after eating red meat, like the article mentioned.”
Loveless said she took Izzy, the tick, and the article to see allergist Thomas Scott, where he diagnosed Izzy with the red meat allergy.
The ticks can transfer animal proteins to humans, making them incapable of digesting red meat properly. They are making their way across the country from the east coast.
Scott told Loveless he had seen seven other cases like Izzy’s this year from tick bites.
“Dr. Scott told us it’s a relatively new illness,” Loveless said. “So they don’t have a treatment. They don’t even know if it’s something she’ll have her whole life.”
According to Brendan Kraus, veterinarian with Spur Ridge Vet Hospital, lone star ticks are common in Marion County.
“It’s one of the most common ticks we see on pets brought into the hospital,” he said. “They often irritate the skin and leave large red welts on animals and people they bite.”
Kraus said the ticks are not as dangerous to animals as they are to humans.
“They don’t seem to transfer disease to animals as much as other ticks,” he said.
Izzy has to carry an epinephrine pen and Benadryl with her at all times and meanwhile no steaks or hamburgers for the family.
“My husband and I are making plans for a night out so we can have a steak,” Loveless said. “We’ve been trying to only eat what she can have as a family. Izzy knows what she can and cannot have, and she will question you on it if you give her something she doesn’t know.”
According to Chris Loveless’s mother, Paula Loveless of Marion, the family is coping and finding alternative foods for Izzy to eat.
“We are finding many vegetarian options in place of meat,” she said. “Izzy loves cheeseburgers, we tried a veggie burger and she really liked it.”
Tara Loveless said Izzy is OK with the family eating regular cheeseburgers if she has a veggie burger.
“We’re coping as a family, but it’s hard,” she said. “We’re hoping by telling our story people become aware that this can happen to anyone, and by the time you find the tick on you it’s too late.”
Tara Loveless said she urges people to use repellant, wear protective clothing when in wooded areas, and save ticks found.”
“It sounds gross, but if we hadn’t saved the tick we still might be looking for what’s wrong with Izzy,” she said.
Tara also said if it were not for her mother, she would have never known to take Izzy to the allergist.
Meirowsky said she is just thankful she happened to read the article.
“Without the article, Izzy could have gotten worse and worse and maybe it would have taken them a long time to figure it out,” she said. “Izzy is doing really well, she loves shrimp and chicken nuggets, and the hard part is when we have family get-togethers remembering I have to fix something special for Izzy.”