Dating with Food Allergies 101
For your own health, you can’t be shy about your food allergies or gluten sensitivity. 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 Zyrtec [Reactine] or Benadryl.
- 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: 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.
Social Factor: 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 epinephrine 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.
Social Factor: 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?
Social Factor: 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 allergy-friendly 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.
Social Factor: 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 food cross-contact.
Social Factor: 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”.
Social Factor: 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 your allergen (or allergens). So if you’re allergic to nuts, for instance, you’ll need to ask: Anything you’ve eaten today that contains nuts?
Social Factor: If you handle it right and he hasn’t eaten anything allergen-laden foods, you could boost the romantic tension.
- Social Factor: If he (or she) really is “that into you,” he’ll probably gladly start forgoing a food, just to please you.
Originally published in Allergic Living magazine.
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