Strategies for Eating Out with Food Allergies

As I said in my About Me, I am allergic to any and all shellfish. What happens if I accidentally eat some isn’t a pretty picture – I break out in hives that usually stay on me for a week. These hives are pretty vicious, and they itch more than any mosquito bite I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, I’m not supposed to scratch them at all, because it can cause lasting damage and scarring to the location of the hives.

Am I oversharing? Probably, but I just want to impart on you how uncomfortable allergic reactions can be. I consider myself to be lucky, as some allergies are much more serious than mine and can cause severe attacks or even death. I have to keep my food allergy in mind whenever I go out to eat, make my own food, or even try something a friend is offering. Because I know there are others out there like me, I’ve decided to share a couple of tips for eating out with food allergies.

The most important thing you can do if you have food allergies and are eating out at a restaurant is simply to be as communicative as possible. Before I place an order, I make sure to inform the waiter or waitress that I am allergic to shellfish and should avoid it at all costs. By doing this, I establish an understanding that would hopefully lead to the waiter or waitress informing me of all dishes containing shellfish. It can sometimes be a little embarrassing to disclose information about anything medical, but if you’ve been dealing with a food allergy for over twenty-five years, I can guarantee you will find it much easier to just speak up instead of break out (in my case).shellfish allergy

There are other things you can do when at the restaurant to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction. It is always wise to avoid a restaurant’s peak hours, as this increases the chance of a mistake happening with respect to your food and allergy-related requests. It is also important to bring your epi-pen if you respond to allergens with anaphylaxis, because you may need a quick fix to make sure you can stop your serious allergic reaction before it does serious and lasting damage. Remember to thank your waiters at the end of the night for helping you with your requests, no matter how small they were, and be sure to tip well!

I also recommend visiting the website of the restaurant before you actually go there. In many cases, the site will have some indication of whether or not a dish contains ingredients that a fair number of people are interested in. For example, a Thai noodle dish could have the warning “may contain peanuts” after the name because it had come in contact with some peanut sauce that was also served at the restaurant. In my experience, this is the best way to prevent having the “I have food allergies” conversation altogether.

As you can see, there are a lot of preventative measures that can be taken to make sure that you don’t have an allergic reaction when eating out at a restaurant. Despite the extra precautions you have to take, make sure you have a good time and enjoy the experience! Feel free to share any good or bad experiences you’ve had in the comments – I’m interested in hearing what you have to say!
Click the links to learn more about food allergies, hives, and anaphylaxis.