Taking Control of Your Own Allergies

As a teenager or a young adult, taking control of your allergies can be tough. You have to do all the things your parents did for you when you were younger. This ranges from calling a restaurant in advance to booking your own doctor appointments. Inevitably, this involves a lot of talking to people, sometimes arguing with them, inconveniencing them, and standing up for yourself.

One of the hardest parts of taking control is communicating with other people. These people can be your friends, a restaurant waiter, or a flight stewardess, and they all need to be informed of your allergies. If you’re shy or introverted, this can be especially difficult. It’s scary to wonder if that person will judge you, roll their eyes, laugh at you, etc. It’s really best to get used to this anxiety while you’re young, because you’ll have to deal with people’s reactions for the rest of your life. I tried a bunch of different communication strategies before finding one that worked for me. Scaring people by telling them they could kill you tends to freak them out, but down-playing the severity of your allergies can lead to situations which put you in danger.

Asking for accommodations can be scary as well. It sucks to have to ask a group of people to rearrange their plans so you can go to a restaurant with them, but if they’re really your friends they probably want you to join them and be safe. Personally, I find talking to waiters to be the hardest. Most waiters are accommodating, but sometimes if they’re really busy they might brush you off or dismiss you. If you don’t feel like they’re taking you seriously, ask for another waiter. There’s nothing more important than your safety. You’re the only one who is responsible for your health, so if you feel like the waiters are wishy-washy, ask to speak to a manager or the chef.

One of the more uncomfortable conversations you’ll have to have will be with your girlfriend/boyfriend. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time with this person and probably kissing them, it’s important that they know all about your allergies and how to handle them. They might have to watch what they eat if they’ll be seeing you that day, or brush their teeth and waiting an extended period of time before coming over. The unfortunate truth is that some people are not willing to do this. These are not the people you want to date, no matter how cute they are. Stand up for yourself, and if they don’t care about your health, move on.

Finally, be okay with messing up sometimes. You might forget your auto-injector at home one day and have to run back and get it, or forget to renew a prescription and have to run to the pharmacy at midnight. These things happen, and they’re part of the process of growing up and taking control. The important thing is to learn from these mistakes so you don’t make them again.

Twenty Five First Allergy Dates

25-First-Food-Allergy-Dates

To be clear, I’m not saying that I’ve been on twenty five first dates to be able to share my experiences from. What I am saying is that I’ve been on twenty four first dates. With that being said, I’m willing to share my tips and hopefully you learn a thing or two from them! The following is just a few of many, many different ways dating can be handled when you have a life-threatening allergy. Try to use these tips and stories as insights into making your own unique style of dating!

  1. Be yourself- no one is more awesome than you, so let your qualities shine through!
  2. Tell your date about your allergy early on. If they are interested in the awesome person you are, they won’t judge you for it.
  3. Bring up your allergy casually. With technology being what it is, most dates are planned through texting these days so why not use this to your advantage! Play a fun fact or question game. Ask about favourite desserts or meals and tell your date what you’re allergic to this way. Or, you can ask about three unique features about them and they may ask you back! You may find they are very interested in hearing about your allergy!
  4. Tell it as it is. “I have an allergy, it is serious if I come in contact with my allergen, do you understand?”
  5. Offer assistance. The worst thing you can do is make your date feel awkward about your allergy. Offer to help him/her adjust to your lifestyle.
  6. Try not to be afraid of telling your date about your allergy. If they like you, they will understand and be happy that you shared it with them.
  7. Answer their questions or concerns honestly.
  8. Prepare ahead of time! Even if the date is a spontaneous flurry of events, try to prepare by calling restaurants and venues in advance to go through the menu with a manager or chef.
  9. Remind or inform the staff at restaurants about the severity of your allergy.
  10. Ask, then kiss. If your date has eaten your allergen that day, don’t risk it! Hopefully you’ve already mentioned your allergy to your date before, but if not, now might be an opportune time!
  11. Shower. That’s a given.
  12. Brush your teeth. Every date loves good breath.
  13. Keep your auto-injector on you at all times.
  14. Teach your date about your auto-injector and let them know where you keep it.
  15. Compromise. This is a great general dating tip but it can also be applied to your allergy. If your date/significant other relies on your allergen for their own dietary needs, compromise and set some ground rules of when it is safe and when it is not safe to be eaten around you.
  16. Have fun!
  17. See Tip #10.
  18. Smile.
  19. Pick a fun and safe first date location. I like to plan surprise dates but I always stick to places I know and trust to help shift most of my focus to the dating experience rather than my allergy. Of course I always double-check but familiarity with an allergy-safe place can be key.
  20. Wash your hands! This is a good hygienic habit but it also limits the risk of cross-contamination.
  21. Pack a snack. Put an allergen-free snack in your purse, bag, backpack, jacket, pants, hat? Sometimes it’s nice to have the comfort of knowing you will at least have one safe thing to eat wherever you go.
  22. Be honest. This is another great general dating tip but if you feel uncomfortable or are anxious about a situation with your allergen present, voice your concerns! In this case, honesty can be the best policy.
  23. Keep your auto-injector on you at all times. Oh, I said that one already? I guess that means it’s important.
  24. Try to avoid poppy seed bagels and anything with spinach before a date. Your smile will thank me for that one!
  25. Laugh. Why? Because, laughing is fun and everyone wants fun dates!

First dates can be nerve-wracking experiences at the best of times, so try not to add any un-needed pressure on yourself; prepare ahead of time, make it a habit, and the fun parts will naturally follow!

Couple in Sunlight

Dessert Dilemma

Enjoying each other's company

I had a pretty scary encounter recently that would have been easily preventable if I had trusted my instincts and not let myself get distracted. I had been going on dates with a girl I knew from high school and she is a peanut butter fanatic. When I say fanatic, I truly mean FANATIC. She has it for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. So, being allergic to peanuts, this posed a huge dilemma for me. I made it very clear on the first few dates about how serious my allergy was and I avoided kissing her until I had developed a sense of trust. In the beginning, she never realized that I can’t eat foods that state “may contain peanut” or even Nutella. I can only imagine the learning curve that she was thrown into!

So let’s fast forward to the meat and potatoes of my story. I met up with her one night and the first thing I asked was, did you have any nuts today? And she said, “Nope, I went out of my way to make sure I didn’t have anything!” So, trusting this, we kissed and I thought nothing of it. Later on, she was telling me about how she was at her grandma’s and that she had an amazing blueberry crumble for dessert. That was when my first red flag creeped into vision. I get a weird feeling about any desserts, as most of them have nuts. So when I heard crumble, I was worried. But she told me she didn’t have any nuts right?! So I let it slide.

Before I left her house, she asked if I wanted any of the crumble because she brought some home and I instantly declined (it’s a habit to decline desserts, again, because I don’t trust them!) Good thing too, because when she pulled it out, what’s on top of the crumble? SLICED ALMONDS! So now I’m panicking inside and don’t want to alarm her, so I just said I had to go and when I left, I had a really bad stomach ache. I wasn’t sure if I scared myself into an anxiety attack or if I was having a real reaction, so I kept a close watch and made sure I had my auto-injector close at hand. As I started to calm myself, the stomach ache went away and I consider myself really lucky that I somehow escaped this situation unharmed. Needless to say, I now always ask her exactly what she ate that day and the day before, just to be sure I cover all my bases before moving in for the kiss. Also, to her credit, she learned from this encounter and is becoming super cautious with what she eats when she knows she will be seeing me in the next 24 hours.

Speak up!

Hi everyone! My name is Lindsay, and I’m allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and soy protein. I’m also lactose intolerant.

Although Valentine’s Day has passed, new romances may be budding as secret admirers have confessed their love on the most romantic day of the year. Having had a few serious relationships in the past, I thought that I could pass along some things that I have learned about allergies and dating.

My last boyfriend and I had been dating for almost a year, when one night we went out to dinner at a Greek restaurant. About half way through the meal, my throat started to feel quite itchy. I started to avoid the food that I thought was causing the reaction – and my boyfriend started to ask how I had gone from absolutely starving to barely eating a thing.

A bowl and fork full of food

Sharing a romantic dinner? Dining out with friends? If you start to experience a reaction, don’t stay quiet! Instead, tell the people you’re with.

I didn’t want him to freak out, so I told him I had filled up on garlic bread, and I tried to take some anti-histamine pills without him noticing. I was embarrassed about having an allergic reaction. I started picturing the scene in my head – telling my boyfriend I was having a reaction, the panic, the auto-injector, everybody at the restaurant staring as an ambulance was called. I did not want that to happen! Even as we left the restaurant, I could feel my throat closing more and more, as the medicine was not kicking in. I still kept quiet, popping anti-histamines like they were candy and praying that my reaction would stop.

Luckily, I started to feel a bit better and eventually fell asleep in the car from all of the anti-histamines that I had consumed. Afterwards, I told my boyfriend that I had had a reaction at the restaurant. He was very upset that I had not told him while it was happening, and he made me promise that I would tell him anytime I felt the slightest bit off.

Looking back on the situation now, I realize just how irresponsible I was for keeping my mouth shut. I could have died, but I didn’t say anything to save myself embarrassment and the drama of causing a scene. Since then, I have responded very differently in similar situations. Now, whenever I feel the smallest hint of a reaction, I am much more comfortable telling others what is going on to make them aware of the situation.

If you ever find yourself in this scenario, whether it be with someone you are dating or even other friends, don’t be embarrassed by your allergies! Nobody wants to cause a scene or make others panic, but it is your life at risk, and that is a very serious matter. Put your safety and health first, calmly explain to others how you are feeling and how they can help, and be prepared to use your epinephrine auto-injector. People are a lot more understanding than you might think, and you will feel a lot better knowing that others are there to help!

To learn more about dining out with food allergies, check out our teen video series!

When we first started dating…

Hi! My name is Erika, and I have multiple food allergies and intolerances.

Dating is something that used to worry me. When I was in high-school, I used to wonder how I could possibly have a boyfriend with all the allergies I had. The fear kept me pretty content with my “single” status, because at the time, I couldn’t imagine taking any extra risk.

I always told myself that the right guy would come along at some point. I always thought I would end up in a relationship with a guy who had multiple food allergies. In my mind, it just made so much sense! If we had similar allergies, then he wouldn’t have to change his diet very much, and I wouldn’t be a “burden” on him (whoever the guy might be).  My friends always joked and said that they would find me someone with just as many allergies as me.

I now find myself in a long term relationship with a guy that doesn’t have any allergies or asthma, and I am the happiest I have ever been!

When you have allergies, the thought of entering into a relationship with someone can be scary. It can feel embarrassing to bring up the topic, especially when you’re meeting someone for the first time. But in my experience, it’s important to talk about your allergies and asthma right from the start before the relationship develops further. If you bring it up in conversation, speak with confidence, and discuss the implications, then everything is on the table. It is  important to show that you know how to manage your allergies, and that you are ready to share ideas, suggestions, and tips for them to help you avoid a reaction. If the other person is really interested in you and care about you, they will ask questions and be willing to accommodate! Trust me on this one 🙂

I am extremely lucky, because my boyfriend isn’t a big peanut or nut fan. When we first started dating, I showed him my epinephrine auto-injector and sent him home with a list of all of my major food allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, soy, lentils) and less severe intolerances (dairy, wheat). We mostly cook together, but he also buys groceries and has made me dinner. If he’s not sure about an ingredient or food item, he’ll send me a text or call me. It has grown to be a very strong relationship in a very short period of time, because we have learned to trust one-another.

Communication in any relationship is key! If the guy or girl you are falling for truly cares about you, they will find ways to make it work. And you need to know that you are NOT a burden. That was my biggest challenge!

A boy and girl leaning in for their first kiss

You might not want to “kiss and tell,” but when it comes to allergies, you should always tell before you kiss!

For more on relationships and dating with allergies, check out these great WhyRiskIt? resources:

– Tips for building supportive relationships

– Personal tales of romance

-“First Kiss” video

– Food allergies and dating video

And leave a comment sharing your experiences of romance with allergies!