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Food Allergy

Dating with Allergies, a Tricky Business

Their second date was supposed to be a lovely evening in, complete with takeout vegetarian sushi that he was to buy at a place she trusted with her life. The first time they ever met, Lori Medoff, a Montreal optometrist and divorced mother of two, told Kenny Webber, the new man in her life, about her severe allergy to fish. The entrepreneur accepted it as just another facet in what he hoped would become a relationship.

Only when Webber arrived that evening in November 2007 with the food, Medoff noticed to her horror that the sushi wasn’t vegetarian, salmon roe had been sprinkled on top. And she explained all over again that if even a hint of the tainted sushi passed her lips, her throat would close and she wouldn’t be able to breathe, never mind kiss him.

“The restaurant thought salmon eggs weren’t fish,” Webber, now 45, said at the time. “Fish is fish,” Medoff, 41, recalls replying. So what did these two lovebirds do? Simple: they skipped the food and went straight to kissing.

Ah, the kiss. You know: that warm, flushed feeling as your lips part and lock with another’s, that flutter in your stomach and your heart beating a mile a – hey, wait a minute! Because if you have food allergies or celiac disease, some of these sensations may indicate a less than romantic physical response.

Consider this story from Sloane Miller, who last August brought a new guy and an allergy-safe restaurant dinner to her New York apartment. After dinner, as the pair held and kissed, Miller got itchy.

When she looked in the mirror, she was alarmed to see hives on her skin, like a red, bumpy map of where his lips had been, around her mouth, on her cheeks, and along her neck, clavicle and right shoulder. She couldn’t believe what was happening, and for a few frightening minutes, she blanked on what to do to stop the reaction.

Now Miller is no novice when it comes to dating and food allergies. She is allergic to salmon, tree nuts, eggplant, melons, most tropical fruits and lemongrass.

Her interest in her condition, combined with her background as a psycho-therapeutic social worker, have led to a career as a food allergy coach and the basis for her popular blog, “Please Don’t Pass the Nuts.” But no matter the extent of her knowledge, she and her date couldn’t pinpoint the cause of her reaction. It had to be something. But what?

Next: Residue and Being Upfront