Q: I’m a teenager with severe allergies to tree nuts and sesame seeds. If my boyfriend eats something that I’m allergic to, how much time should we wait before kissing?
Dr. Sharma: Dating can sometimes pose challenges for teens with food allergies, and kissing has been found to sometimes cause allergic reactions.
In two studies between 5 and 12 percent of patients surveyed reported such reactions. Most of those involved kissing shortly after the food allergen was eaten.
Dr. Scott Sicherer and his colleagues at Mount Sinai in New York conducted a study investigating the presence of peanut allergen in saliva after eating peanut butter. They found that waiting several hours (an average of four) after eating peanut butter and then eating a peanut-free meal reduced allergen in saliva to undetectable levels.
It’s important to note that these findings are specific to peanut butter, and may not apply to peanut in another form or other food allergens.
The safest approach is usually for the partner to avoid the allergen, too. For peanut butter, we have learned that waiting several hours, and then eating a peanut-free meal, significantly reduces the chance of a reaction.
Finally, it’s important as a teenager to be open about your food allergy early on with your partner. You will often be pleasantly surprised on how supportive he or she will be once fully understanding the potential severity of your allergy.
Dr. Sharma is an allergist, clinical researcher and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics. He is Associate Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. and Director of the Food Allergy Program. He co-authors “The Food Allergy Experts” column in the American Edition of Allergic Living magazine. Questions submitted below will be considered for answer in the magazine.