How Dangerous Are Ticks? Here's What to Do if You're Bitten

Some patients of tick bites have developed a red meat allergy, others have been sent into a days-long sleep.

After a 2-year-old was nearly killed by a disease he got from a tick bite, experts are warning families to beware the dangers of the little critters this summer.

Two-year-old Jackson Oblisk was always been a happy and healthy kid, until a routine trip to the park sent him into a days-long sleep in the I.C.U.

“They didn’t know if my child can make it through this — that’s the worst thing a parent can hear about a child,” mom Kayla Oblisk told

Doctors eventually discovered that a tick bite several days earlier caused Rocky Mountain spotted fever to nearly take the life of the poor toddler.

Tick-borne diseases have been on the rise over the last 30 years quite dramatically,” Dr. Brian Fallon of the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University told “These are very serious illnesses and if not treated properly they sometimes can lead to death.”

Thankfully, little Jackson received treatment in just the nick of time.

Aside from a few more physical therapy and speech therapy appointments, Jackson is nearly back to his normal self since the harrowing incident last month. But his mom and doctors want to make sure others know how to stay safe from potentially deadly bites.

Fallon explained that not only have there been more instances of tick-borne illnesses in the last several decades, there have also been an uptick of the variety of diseases ticks can spread.

In addition to Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, researchers have also been seeing new diseases like Borrelia miyamotoi plaguing an alarming number of victims.

That’s why, Fallon explained, it’s important to be aware of any tick bites and to monitor them properly.

“You don’t actually feel it because a tick injects a certain anesthetic substance,” he said. “Check your body at the end of the day. If you have children, check your children’s body at the end of the day.”

He said it’s important not to burn or squeeze the tick when it’s attached to the skin, but to remove it carefully with tweezers then clean with hydrogen peroxide.

The next step is to monitor the bite, and if a growing rash appears around the bite mark or if the patient begins experiencing flu-like symptoms like little Jackson did, it’s important to go see the doctor as soon as possible.

“If the tick is attached longer than 24 hours, the risk of acquiring a tick-borne infection is much greater.”

Aside from observation and treatment, Fallon explained families can lower the risks of tick bites by cleaning up around the home, including disposing of leaf litter and log piles, keeping a well-maintained lawn with minimal shade and getting vaccinated.

Tick bites can also affect people in unexpected ways. Matthew Beres, a private chef in Long Island, New York, developed a rare allergy to red meat and meat products after being bitten by a lone star tick.

“This all started with a reaction to a hamburger I had eaten and then I ended up basically in the hospital later that night,” Beres told last summer. “My whole body broke out in hives.”

Beres was diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome, which triggers an allergy reaction three to six hours after consuming a red meat product. The sugar molecule transmitted by the lone star tick causes the immune system to have an allergic response to meat from mammals.

Because Beres lives in an area that is especially prone to ticks, he has been dealing with alpha-gal symptoms for more than six years.

“I would get a little bloated, then I start breaking out into hives – it gets really bad, like someone with a bad reaction to poison ivy – then I basically throw up," he explained. "One time, I had trouble breathing so my wife had to hit me with the EpiPen.”

Following the diagnosis, Beres’ diet consists of mostly poultry, seafood and eggs. Because of the allergy, he also has to avoid red meat products, including cheese and gelatin. If he orders chicken or turkey sausages, he has to be careful that the supplier does not use pork casings.

Avoiding all these foods proves even more difficult considering he’s a chef.

“East End on Long Island, [we’ve got] fabulous food, fabulous cheeses and I’m a chef so I’m knee-deep in all this stuff. It’s just really really hard,” Beres explained. “I can’t really taste the food that I’m making. I have to have someone come and taste it for me and to rely on someone else's taste. Obviously chefs are pretty tight on their food and they want it to taste the way they want it to taste so it's really hard for me to have someone else do that for me.”

His career aside, Beres said he especially misses eating briskets in the winter and enjoying barbecue in the summer.

“I get tick bites every year but a lot of people do get better from it,” he said. “Hopefully they'll come up with a cure for this one too so I can get back on that meat train.”