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Food Allergy

Dating with Allergies, a Tricky Business

The next day, Miller’s GP and an allergist told her the cause was probably cashew residue caught in her date’s beard from a few nuts he’d eaten hours earlier. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, she could rattle off in her sleep safety measures for such a situation, but that evening she was rattled, period.

“Here I am, in my 30s and pretty capable when it comes to my allergies. But covered in hives and wheezing, I definitely had a moment of: ‘What do I do first here?’”

Welcome to the world of dating with food allergies or gluten intolerance. Think of it as alt dating, where preparedness is paramount and the difference of restricted diet dictates caution and truth, whether you like it or not.

Others may spend time communicating in meaningful glances and words unspoken but, as Medoff’s and Miller’s experiences illustrate, you cannot. Both women say you can’t wait to be charmingly upfront and honest about your condition, no matter whether it’s an allergy to peanuts or the fact that gluten particles in something as mundane as a lipstick can cause you painful intestinal distress. You must take the lead.

Don’t Miss With the Kiss

Even Miller, who knows the drill inside out, learned from her “mystery” reaction that minute particles of food do get caught in beards, on collars and in teeth, and can have a disastrous effect in the throes of kissing. Some anthropologists have theorized that kissing originated with mothers chewing up food and passing it – mouth to mouth – to their newborn offspring.

True or not, the act itself is an integral part of our culture, from a mother’s buss to a lover’s embrace to a hello and even an ultimate goodbye. As Shakespeare’s Romeo famously says to Juliet, whom he thinks dead, “And, lips, O you; the doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss; a dateless bargain to engrossing death.”

It might not hold the drama of the bard but back in 2002, two allergists at the University of California at Davis published a survey that proved reactions to kissing aren’t uncommon. Among 379 people allergic to nuts, peanuts and seeds, they found 5.3 per cent had had allergic reactions, ranging from hives and itchiness, to swelling of the lips and throat, wheezing and anaphylactic reaction.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Rosemary Hallett, suspects the rate may even be higher since researchers didn’t specifically ask respondents about kissing reactions. Instead, people volunteered that information on questionnaires.

So how do you prevent a kiss reaction? Research shows that with peanuts, at least, a wait of 4½ to five hours between the non-allergic partner eating the food and kissing helps, as does that partner having another meal in between and vigorously brushing his or her teeth.

Still, Dr. Jennifer Maloney, co-author of a 2006 study on this subject, has said that the safest approach of all is for people who plan to be kissing to avoid eating anything their romantic partners are allergic to, period.

These are the rules: Never kiss, then tell. Instead, tell first, kiss safely – or don’t kiss at all.

Next: Having the Big Talk