Please note: These tips are for adults managing food allergies who are 21 and older, although some may be helpful for young adults and teens who are navigating social situations. For a teen-friendly version of this post, please visit our teen blog on Tumblr.
If you are an adult with food allergies, we know it doesn’t sound like much fun to have to worry about your food allergies when you’re planning a night out at a club or party with your friends. However, it’s critical to make smart decisions in these situations so you can have a great time and avoid allergic reactions and anaphylaxis. Here are some tips on precautions and preparations to take before heading out the door:
- Eat a safe meal before the party starts
Having a hearty meal before you head out means you will be less inclined to eat foods at a party that may not be safe for you. While it may be tempting to grab some pretzels out of a communal bowl, you shouldn’t risk eating foods that are not labeled or could have come in contact with your allergens via other people’s hands or serving utensils. You can always bring a snack with you, or eat later at home or a safe restaurant meal.
- No excuses – bring your epinephrine!
Women can use a cross-body bag, purse, or large clutch to store their epinephrine auto-injectors. Men can keep their epinephrine auto-injectors in their pant or breast pocket, or even strapped to a leg. In addition to always having epinephrine on hand, wearing medical identification jewelry can help to make emergency responders aware of your food allergies, and can be a way to start a conversation about your allergies with new friends.
- Use the buddy system
Have a trusted friend with you who knows the signs of a reaction, where you keep your epinephrine, and can be a support if you need help. Never go through a reaction alone. If you think you are experiencing symptoms, do not go to the restroom alone to self-evaluate. Remember, in case of an anaphylactic reaction, use your epinephrine auto-injector, then call 911, and do not drive yourself to the hospital!
- Kiss with caution
It may not seem very romantic, but even in the heat of the moment, it’s important to alert your date well before your first kiss that you have a food allergy. Food particles and proteins can remain in saliva for hours after eating, so it’s important to ask if they’ve had eaten anything containing your allergens recently. Even though it may feel awkward, the consequences of potentially having a reaction are much worse than a moment of embarrassment. This same principle applies to sharing cups with friends – their saliva could contain your allergens, so it’s best to decline having a “taste” of others’ drinks.
- Order for yourself
Depending on which allergens you need to avoid, there may be certain wines or spirits that are off limits for you. For example, those with tree nut allergies should avoid liquors derived from tree nuts. Mixed drinks or shooters can contain many ingredients, so you should avoid “mystery” drinks purchased for you by friends. If someone is insisting on buying you a drink, walk with them to the bar to place your order for yourself.
- Watch your intake
For multiple reasons, it is important for those with food allergies to be in control and aware when they are eating and drinking. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, alcohol may increase the rate at which a food allergen is absorbed, therefore resulting in a quicker onset or more severe symptoms, if you ingest an allergen. Additionally, when you have had too much to drink, your judgment, timing and muscle coordination are adversely affected. So you are at higher risk for a mistake to happen or mishandling a reaction. Avoid playing drinking games, which encourage over-consumption and may involve sharing cups, which increases the chances of transferring allergens via saliva or hands.
Food allergies shouldn’t hold you back from having fun and hanging out with friends, but they do require extra planning and responsibility on your part. If you have any additional tips, please share them in the comments section!