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.
- Always carry emergency medications in a purse or a ‘man bag,’ including at least one epinephrine auto-injector (though preferably two), and some Benadryl or Zyrtec [Reactine].
- Always wear a medical ID bracelet. There are now a vast range of trendy  or elegant styles. MedicAlert even has ones Swarvoski crystals and pearls for women.
- Carry your doctor’s phone number; have an app on your smartphone with your medical information.
- Have a written emergency action plan that’s kept in an accessible place. Forms are available online from FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education)  and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology .
- 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.
- 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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