MCDONOUGH, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) – Karen Taylor keeps her McDonough, Georgia store, A Scarlet Thread, stocked with anything and everything a quilter or sewer could ever need.
Behind the scenes, she has another collection, on her iPad, for her doctors.
The 54-year old has taken hundreds of selfies, documenting strange skin reactions, she’s has been having for months.
The rashes began in September.
"I would just be covered with these big red welts," Taylor says.
By December, she was waking up with hives almost daily.
Then, in January, on a business trip to Florida, Taylor went to a steak restaurant, and her face began to swell.
The next day, she felt better, so she headed back to the quilt show.
"And then I had a sausage biscuit," she says.
Her face swelled up again.
This time, Taylor drove home to Georgia, straight to an allergist.
"Since it was a 6- hour drive, I stopped and had myself an Arby’s roast beef sandwich," she says. "Not such a good thing to do."
She captured her reaction in a series of selfies.
"My lip just got bigger and bigger and bigger, and my chest started going nuts," Taylor says.
She was diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome, a food allergy to red meat.
"I just laughed, and I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me. I have been eating meat my whole life,’" she says.
Allergists think the Lone Star tick, found across the Southeastern US,. may be to blame.
Taylor says, she remembers being bitten by a tick this last summer.
"I remember looking at it and thinking, ‘Well, that’s a really weird looking tick,’" she says. "It has like a white, yellowy looking spot on its back."
The tick’s bite can transmit a sugar molecule, the alpha-gal molecule, that Atlanta Allergy and Asthma’s Dr. Kathleen Sheerin says can trigger a severe reaction to red meat — usually, several hours after you eat it.
"So, beef, pork, lamb, venison," Dr. Sheerin says. "People will eat meat that have been sensitized, and they’ll have a delayed anaphylactic reaction. A bad allergic reaction. Sometimes 4 to 6 hours later. "
Taylor now carries an EpiPen with her everywhere.
At the grocery store, she uses the app ‘Is It Vegan?’ to find safe foods.
She can eat chicken and fish, but nothing made from red meat.
"So, no gel, no glycerin," she says. "My makeup has to be vegan. My hand lotion has to be vegan. My sunscreen has to be vegan."
Even with being careful, Karen Taylor still has a reaction at least once or twice a week.
"I’m missing some beef, I don’t mind telling you," she laughs.
But Taylor is now a vegan.
So, by default, is her husband Ken.
For better or worse, they’re in this new meat-free life together.