Dangers of Dating with an Allergy
By May Contain & Contributor Hazel
It’s a fact that not enough young people speak up about their allergies, which makes the dating game a dangerous one. It’s for this reason that I feel strongly about raising awareness, and making sure people feel comfortable and confident telling others about their allergies. Many of the allergy articles available online aren’t relevant to young people, and geared toward parents, or are too scientific and dry. I decided to go ahead and speak to other like-minded young people, and ask them about their experiences of dating with an allergy.
But, before I jump into dating with an allergy, I wanted to talk about why I did a photoshoot for this article. I had the opportunity to speak to Jo Frost a few weeks back, and we talked about raising awareness for those dating with allergies around the most romantic day of the year – Valentine’s Day. There’s always the fear that a photoshoot won’t turn out how you like it, or if I’m not proud of it, then I’ll feel like I’ve failed – stupid, I know. However, my conversation with Jo encouraged me to take the plunge, and I’m so grateful it did!
Young people reach out to me weekly on Instagram, and ask me about dating with an allergy. I constantly get asked, do I tell my date that I have a severe nut allergy? Yes! It’s so important to talk about your allergy on a first date; you don’t need to make it an announcement, but just make sure to mention it in casual conversation. I’m 26-years old now, and it’s only recently that I’ve felt comfortable enough – but it’s vital. If I could look back and give advice to my 16-year old self, it would be to not feel embarrassed to speak out about my allergy amongst friends/ girlfriends etc. You’ll be surprised at the number of people who are affected themselves, or who are interested to find out more about it! I don’t need to mention that it’s important to carry your Epi-Pen at all times.
In a bar/ restaurant environment, not only is it important to tell your date about your allergy, but also tell your bartender – especially if you’re ordering a cocktail. Bar equipment can be contaminated from previous drinks, or shakers may have contained nuts. I was actually in a cocktail bar in London, and ordered a whiskey-based cocktail that didn’t state that it may contain nuts on the menu. Just before I took a sip, I had a gut feeling to ask the bartender if the cocktail had nuts in it – the manager came over, and I was shocked to discover that they actually use nut-based syrup around the rim of the glass, to make the cocktail sweeter. Imagine if I’d never asked! I would’ve most definitely gone into anaphylaxis.
But, that’s enough about me. I want to introduce you to Hazel; she’ll be helping me, alongside other May Contain contributors, to write refreshing content for the May Contain website. Here’s Hazel’s experience of dating with an allergy.
‘Growing up, I didn’t really know anyone else who had food allergies and so I didn’t have anyone to give me guidance on things like dating with allergies. I remember at secondary school, around the time that I first started dating, my friend told me about a girl who had had a severe allergic reaction after kissing her boyfriend and it dawned on me that that was a real risk. I used to feel really embarrassed speaking about my allergies, and I’m ashamed to admit I wouldn’t always mention it to my date before I kissed them – out of pure luck I managed to never have a bad allergic reaction, although I have had a few small reactions. This made me realize that it’s something that I should always bring up at the beginning of a relationship, as I might not always be that lucky.
Although I still felt embarrassed, I started to make sure I did mention my food allergies to my dates. I found that most of the time they were really understanding and conscientious about it. Although, there was one occasion where I was dating someone who had eaten a curry with nuts just before I saw him, and he couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t kiss him. He didn’t understand the severity of my allergy and thought I would just get a bad stomach ache at worst. He made me feel really uncomfortable but it helped me to realize that although I had told him I had a food allergy, I hadn’t told him what this meant if I had an allergic reaction.
As I grew up, my parents were great at educating people around me about my food allergies, so everyone already knew how severe they were and what to do if I had a reaction. It was only then, when I was on this date, that I realized not everyone else was this clued up about food allergies. It occurred to me that it was really important for me to fully educate him on what would happen if I had an allergic reaction, and what he should do in that situation.
Thankfully I’ve learned from all of this! Now when I go on a date I usually gauge how I feel first, if I like him and think it will lead to a second date I tend to mention my allergies quite early on to get it out of the way. It’s usually pretty easy to bring up in conversation (especially as most first date questions include “what’s your favourite music” and “what’s your favourite food”!). I’ve found that the more confident you are speaking about your allergies, the more seriously you will be taken. But if you find your date is not understanding and supportive, they’re probably not someone that you want to waste your time with anyway!
Top tips for dating if you have allergies:
• Discuss your allergies early on so they are aware.
• Always ask double check with the bartender that the cocktail doesn’t contain nuts.
• Go to bars or restaurants that you’re familiar with and trust (although not all dates have to include food!)
• Don’t waste time with someone who doesn’t take your allergies seriously.
• Always carry two Epi-Pen with you!