There are a lot of misconceptions about food allergies in our culture, and many people actually act hostile to those who suffer from them due to their own ignorance and malice. This can make dating as someone with food allergies (or trying to date someone with food allergies) a challenge.
Before I met my husband, I had a few young men who were interested in me make jokes about food allergies, only for me to inform them seconds later that I suffered from food allergies myself. They usually turned bright red and apologized, but I had one sarcastically tell me that I must be a pretty horrible date. At the time, it stung less than it does now because I was told I’d grow out of them, and it didn’t happen. I never asked to have anaphylactic reactions to common foods and fillers or hives from simple side dishes like rice, it just happened.
Thankfully my own husband’s list of allergies is nearly a perfect match for mine, so we’ve never had many problems keeping ourselves healthy around one another. Had things played out differently, I shudder to think what could have happened had I went out with someone who was unfamiliar with food allergies and the possible scenarios I could’ve found myself in.
The truth is, most people who have food allergies know it is our responsibility (and will readily tell you as much) to take care of ourselves and manage our health. I have only had a life-saving dose of epinephrine once, and I hope it never has to happen again. In light of that, here are some of the bits of information that you might find helpful if you are thinking about dating someone with food allergies.
1. Allergies and Intolerances are Different
The confusion of these two conditions is perhaps the biggest reason those who suffer from food allergies are ignored, put in danger, and verbally harassed and abused. Many people who suffer from food allergies also suffer from food intolerances, but they are not the same thing. Enough people have claimed an “allergy” when they actually had an intolerance or were doing a diet plan that many restaurants disregard those of us who do have allergies, even when the restaurant advertises it as friendly towards people with specific allergies.
Exposure to allergens often produces problems like hives, rashes and other life-threatening symptoms, while exposure to intolerances causes problems that, while they can be severe (debilitating stomach aches, migraines, joint pain, etc), are not life-threatening.
In both cases, the person suffering from the allergies or intolerances should avoid the foods that cause their issues, but they should not conflate the conditions. The difference is that if your date with food allergies gets something they are allergic to, the date might end in a medical emergency.
2. Cross Contamination is a Possibility
You might be laboring under the assumption that if a person who is allergic to one substance doesn’t eat that substance, they won’t have a reaction. Let me assure you, this is only partially true.
If you try to take someone with an allergy to wheat to a bakery because they advertise “gluten-free” products, but the bakery workers forget to wash their kitchen in between batches, the wheat crumbs can easily get into the “gluten-free” food and your date might have a reaction. Cross contamination is a huge issue for many allergy sufferers because a lot of cooks don’t even know what their cooking supplies contain. Some spices contain corn and wheat, and before the top eight allergens began getting press, this wasn’t always disclosed on the ingredient list!
While it might seem a little crazy, there is another way to get cross contamination…
You can actually get someone with food allergies sick by kissing them.
Not super romantic, I know, but if you’ve eaten something they can’t, you might want to brush your teeth thoroughly before making a move on them.
3. Modern Medicine Is Your Friend
If you are considering dating someone with food allergies, you’ll need to get acquainted with their emergency plan in case they are exposed to the substance they are allergic to. Even if you are very careful, a restaurant might still cross contaminate your food.
A lot of people have success stopping a reaction with Benadryl alone, but others need to be given epinephrine and taken to the hospital. Make sure you know the plan before you step into a place where exposure might happen, because allergic reactions can come on quickly.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Unconventional
I know that a lot of people think of a nice date as going out to dinner and a movie, and while the movie part is great, the going out to dinner can be extremely stressful for food allergy sufferers. A lot of us don’t like being put on the spot to explain our allergies to restaurant staff, and many of us don’t want to put that kind of pressure of working around our allergies on the cooks in the kitchen.
There are some fun alternatives you can try instead, like grabbing snacks from a healthy food store (most have a deli area where “normal” people can get meals), allowing the person with the allergies to cook or pack a picnic lunch, or even cooking dinner together!
My husband and I preferred the last option because it was the easiest for us. We opened a window or door so our neighbors could see we weren’t doing anything inappropriate and worked together to make a dinner we could eat worry-free!