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Eating Out

Dating & Allergies 101

For your own health, you can’t be shy about your food allergies or gluten sensitivities. Allergic Living helps you broach the topic, right from the first date.

DATE GEAR

  • Always carry emergency medications in a purse or a ‘man bag,’ including at least one auto-injector (the brands EpiPen or Auvi-Q, Allerject) and some Benadryl or  Zyrtec [Reactine].
  • Always wear a MedicAlert bracelet. There are now attractive ones in 14K gold or silver and even with Swarvoski crystals and pearls for women.
  • Carry your doctor’s phone number.
  • For longer outings, have safe snacks in your bag.


TALKING “THE TALK”

  • Be upfront from the start with a new date, explaining your allergies or intolerance. Make it clear that you have some dietary restrictions that have to be followed – either food allergies or celiac disease are serious conditions. Handled carelessly, the former could lead to a trip to the ER. Stress that, when you abide by your avoidance practices, your condition is completely manageable.
    Social Factor [SF]: Don’t put the dating partner in the position of reserving at a great restaurant, and then you have to turn down the invitation.
  • Suggest early dating ideas without food: a concert, movie, sports event, art exhibit or going hiking, skating, skiing or indoor rock climbing. Or meet some place that you know for drinks.
    SF: Dates outside of the standard dinner date can be unique, memorable. You’ll get to make the point that you can have a great time, you simply have to be careful with food.
  • Let the person know, early on, what to do in an allergic emergency. Make it clear that if you seem to be reacting, you’ve got to have the auto-injector; then 911 needs to be called. Show the auto-injector, demonstrate how it is used, stress that it needs to be used promptly.
    SF: People can be initially concerned by the “big needle”. Assure the person that it’s a great relief from a reaction, that the discomfort is minimal.
  • If looking for a companion on a dating site, why not mention food allergies or celiac?
    SF: Could be intriguing to a foodie who likes to cook.


EATING OUT

  • In the early going, if you’re eating out, be the one to suggest the restaurant. Have a list of safe spots that you like and whose kitchens you know to be vigilant about food safety and avoiding cross-contact. It’s good to be aware of a few restaurants in different areas of town. Then if you’re out for a walk and he (or she) suggests stopping for dinner, you have a name.
    SF: Allergy-aware kitchens tend to have progressive kitchens, and that usually means good food.
  • For later dates, when he or she suggests a new eatery, phone ahead and question the chef or manager about the menu, making sure there are dishes safe for you, and that the kitchen is mindful of cross-contamination.
    SF: By checking, there will be no embarrassing “we can’t eat here” scenes.
  • Be judicious with wine and alcohol, so you don’t drop your own guard around food. If you’re a teen, avoid wine, liquor and drugs, period. While anaphylaxis is not something you want to encounter, even worse would be encountering it in a compromised state.
  • For a subsequent date, preparing a meal at your place is a great way to have a romantic evening and be safe all at the same time. Learn how to cook a few easy dishes.

HOTTER OF COOLER?

  • Go out with people who aren’t nervous around your allergies or intolerance. On the flipside, avoid people who constantly make jokes about your condition. You won’t find it funny at all.
  • Be willing to say “no”.
    SF: If someone is cavalier about your food needs at the wooing stage, the outlook isn’t good.
  • The mood is getting flirty and relaxed? Great, but if you haven’t already, now’s the time to sashay into the topic of kissing precautions – and that it can be risky to kiss someone who has been eating nuts (if you’re nut allergic). So you ask: anything you’ve eaten today that contains nuts?
    SF: If you handle it right and he hasn’t eaten anything nut-laden foods, you could boost the romantic tension.
  • SF: If he (or she) really is “that into you,” he’ll probably gladly give up a food – not just for a day – to please you.

Originally published in Allergic Living magazine.
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