Dating Tips For People With Food Allergies
First dates bring excitement, anticipation, a few nervous butterflies—maybe even a first kiss—but for people with food allergies, date planning requires more than deciding when to meet or what to wear.
“Since dating so often revolves around eating, it’s important that people with food allergies take a proactive approach,” says Tonya Winders, president and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA), a leading patient education nonprofit organization.
Preparation includes working with a board-certified allergist to identify and avoid food allergens, says James J. Herman, MD, an allergist from Lubbock, Texas and chairman of the Anaphylaxis, Food and Insect Allergy Committee with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
“Symptoms can appear within minutes to several hours after ingestion and may include itchiness or swelling in the mouth, hives, nausea, coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath,” Dr. Herman says. “You need to know symptoms of anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, and you should always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors, the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis.”
“If you’re confident about your diagnosis and understand how to manage your condition,” Winders adds, “then you’ll feel more comfortable going on a date.”
AANMA offers these first-date tips:
* Keep initial conversations about your food allergies clear and simple. Discussing it in great detail on a first date may be too much, too soon.
* Emphasize to your date that you understand what you can and cannot eat and know what steps to take in case of an accidental exposure.
* Arrange a non-restaurant first date—visit an art museum or go bowling, for example. If you do go to a restaurant, pick one that you know will cater to your food allergies.
* Hold off on kissing if your date has consumed one of your food allergens. Saliva can contain the allergen for at least several hours after a meal; studies suggest it may be best to wait until after your date has eaten another meal before kissing.
* Have fun! Remember that a medical condition is just one part of who you are.
AANMA explores dating with allergies and asthma in the spring issue of Allergy & Asthma Today, a quarterly magazine available in February (http://www.aanma.org/publication).