Picture this, one afternoon you're at your best friend's backyard barbeque, enjoying a freshly grilled hamburger, then later that night, you're on the ground, barely breathing... because guess what?!
You've become allergic to meat.
A tick bite.
Thanks to climate change, critters like these are expanding their ranges, and their seasons are getting longer -- meaning they have more space and more time to take a bite out of you or me.
[OPEN] Could you really wake up one day and be allergic to red meat?
If a certain tick, like this Lone Star tick, munches on a mammal, and then bites you, it can pass a special sugar called Alpha-Gal from that other mammal directly into your bloodstream.
Your body doesn't make Alpha-Gal, and for some reason, it files it away as a threat, so the next time you munch on something that has Alpha-Gal in it, your body freaks out.
Currently, the risk of developing a meat allergy is very low, but climate change might help these tiny monsters cross paths with more people.
Most ticks are limited by cold winters, so as our winters warm up, they can thrive in more places and be active during more of the year.
And getting a meat allergy is just one of many ways ticks can make you sick.
The black legged tick, for example, can give you Lyme disease, which can weaken you for life.
The number of US counties home to black-legged ticks more than doubled in the past 20 years.
In fact, the relationship between climate change and Lyme disease is so strong that the US Environmental Protection Agency uses the number of new cases as an indicator of how the climate is changing.
But this isn't just a North American problem - Lyme and many other diseasescarried by ticks are expanding around the world.
And warmer weather doesn't just help the ticks spread; it can also make them more likely to carry disease-causing pathogens.
Most of the time these germs live and multiply in animals, like mice, who can carry the pathogens without getting sick themselves.
With warmer winters, more mice survive to spring, more mice can give their germs to ticks, and a greater number of infected ticks are waiting around to bite humans.
Of course, climate change is just one of many factors influencing these diseases.
And another one of these factors is us.
We know to do things like tuck in our socks, wear bug spray, and check each other chimp-style.
But as climate change turns familiar pests into more formidable foes, in the long run, probably the most important thing we can do is learn more about these little buggers and the diseases they carry.
The first documented case of a tick-induced meat allergy was less than two decades ago, so we're still learning about how ticks make us sick, especially in a changing climate.
And once we know more, we'll hopefully be able to take some of the bite out climate change.