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Food Allergy

Dating with Allergies, a Tricky Business

What would the teen do if at a party and the object of her dreams is pressuring her to make out? Or if someone tries to give the teen a drink? Invariably, he tells them of one no-nonsense female patient who figured out that if she spoke to her dates about her allergies from the get-go, the ones who really cared about her, or at least really wanted to kiss, would make sure not to jeopardize her health.

“Because if someone cares about you, they wouldn’t want to make you sick,” Sicherer says. “Advance planning is one great way to relieve the peer pressure. And don’t drink alcohol. It only makes you let your guard down.”

Sage, whose parents are always telling her never to drop her guard, had that life lesson reinforced last August during an end of session celebration at a summer camp in the Okanagan Valley. Sage and her date planned to dance the night away, but their plans were foiled at the start. As hors d’oeuvres were served outside the dining hall, her date, who is allergic to legumes, bit into a samosa that contained peas.

“He tapped me on my shoulder, said, ‘I have to go get my EpiPen’ and ran back to his cabin. I guess he thought the samosa was a spinach and cheese pie,” she recalls. “I told the staff, and the camp director, the doctor and two nurses all sprinted after him.” She spent their romantic dinner sitting next to an empty chair.

“It was kind of sad,” she says. “There was also a poster with a big heart that couples were having their photo taken in front of. That kind of sucked, too.”

The experience made Sage more determined than ever. “I don’t eat anything when I don’t know exactly what’s in it, and I never go anywhere without my EpiPen.”

It’s sage advice (so to speak), as is that from Lisa Ferlaino, a 21-year-old communications student from Montreal’s West Island. Last summer, she registered with eHarmony, the online dating website, because she was ready for a serious relationship with someone who would accept that she wanted a family and a career. In her profile, she didn’t mention her allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, dairy and legumes. It wasn’t because she was hiding anything; there simply wasn’t a place for it.

Soon, Lisa was corresponding with a 21-year-old apprentice electrician. They had similar interests and goals and when she e-mailed him about her allergies, his response was that her health came first. “And then I found out that his mom is a nurse,” says Ferlaino, “and I was like, ‘this is good.’”

On their first date, at a coffee shop near her home, they spoke of family, their mutual love of tennis and Ferlaino’s health challenges. And for three weeks, they texted each other continuously. But when he returned from a family holiday in the Mari-times, they weren’t clicking like they had been. “There was no spark,” she says. “I deserve spark.”

So do you. Don’t settle. Allergies or not, you will kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess, and there are happy endings. Medoff and Webber, for instance, have been together for going on two years, while Shainblum met Mark Shainblum, whom she would marry, when she was least expecting it.

Next: Finding the “Keeper”