Nights out, Drinks, Date Night
So, we can deal with our food allergies during the day, at work, at uni and even at restaurants but how to we tackle the Nights Out with food allergies?
Going to Concerts, to the cinema, going on date night or out for drinks, all come with a common nervousness or excitement that most people feel however, our anxiety heightens when we also have food allergies to deal with (and your parents anxiety most definitely heightens too).
Although an awkward topic to discuss, I hope to deal with it in an easy step-by step process, so you have a better understanding of how to approach the topic of your allergies when you least want to.
Preparing for a Night Out
This is the number one rule that you must ALWAYS follow, no exceptions – Carry at least 2 epi-pens at ALL times. Personally, I always try to carry 3 with me, if they fit in my bag. I place 2 epi-pens together in a see-through zip-lock plastic bag and roll it up along with a white sticky label stating, ‘Inject in thigh and call ambulance’. Although the epi-pen injector states this itself, my logic is in a situation where one person may be injecting, others can concentrate on the next step stated on the bag as the auto-injector is already being used. A zip-lock plastic bag is very useful as 2 epi-pens are always kept together, can be moved easily from bag to bag and are always visible if someone is searching for it when needed. It prevents them from liquid damage and is already packed and ready to go through any security in airports, museums or public buildings.
No matter where you plan to go for the evening, ensure that you have your epi-pens safely in your pocket, bag, clutch, belt, somewhere obvious and accessible.
Sometimes for concerts only a clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bag is permitted so just to be sure, check in advance what bags are allowed and if its only clear bags then purchase one in advance that’s an appropriate size for your belongings (phone, purse) along with your epi pens and medication. The last thing you want is having to try to fit your phone, money and medication in your pockets.
Antihistamine tablets and Inhalers
I have very mild reactions to certain food, pollen, dust and suffer from asthma so I always carry a strip of anti-histamine tablets and inhalers in my bag. In certain situations, my eyes may get irritated or itchy, my nose can become blocked or runny, my chest becomes wheezy and I know these symptoms are due to a mild reaction to something in the environment or something I have touched or eaten. When I take an antihistamine it usually reduces symptoms within 30 mins or so.
- If going to a restaurant or for drinks- Read my post on Eating Out here to help you choose an allergy friendly place to reduce.
- If friends have already booked a restaurant that you do not feel safe eating in, you always have the option of meeting them after dinner for drinks.
On the Night Out
- They should already know about your food allergy but if not make sure to inform them and ensure they know where exactly your epi-pen is in your bag/pocket.
- You could ask whoever is hosting to send a text along with the pre-drinks invitation stating that a flatmate/friend has a food allergy to — so be careful with what you bring.
- Bring your own beverage and mixer if needed as some mixers may contain your allergen, eg. Flavoured drinks, coconut, egg whites, dairy, wheat, rye, barley, sulphates.
- Note that alcohol can decrease ability to make sensible decisions and can decrease threshold level to trigger an allergic reaction. It can also decrease time to develop an allergic reaction and increase severity.
Post Night Out Feed
- We all know the feeling of craving a bag of chips or a pizza after the nightclub and although when you’re with friends it seems like the best idea ever, you subconsciously know that it is the exact opposite! Late night Take Aways are often extremely busy after a night out and dish out food to customers as fast as they can with little care of cross-contamination with other foods or ingredients in the kitchen. It is advised to have your favourite meal or sacks prepared at home, so you know you have it to look forward to after the night out while your also saving money on buying food!
- It’s understanding that you may not want to bring up the topic of allergies or discuss allergy precautions as you feel you can deal with it yourself. However, it is important that the other person is aware of your allergies, even if it’s a friend that tells them first.
- You should choose the restaurant or location where you meet, ensuring that it’s allergy friendly and you have eaten there before. You should openly discuss your allergies are the reason you choose the particular place, and this helps to bring up the topic early in advance.
- Another option is when you order your food or drink in a restaurant and mention about your allergies to the staff, this can help bring up the topic of conversation easily.
- Your allergies do not define you, but they are part of you and those around should be aware of them, so it is important to share this.
Contaminated Taxis or Public Transport
In February 2020 there have been three separate incidents where peanut butter was spread on the handgrip poles on the trains in New York City. This is extremely dangerous and upsetting for those who suffer from Peanut and Nut allergies with airborne symptoms and means we must always be aware of our surroundings.
Public transport systems, handgrip poles, door handles and seat belts may all have allergen residue on them after someone has eaten the allergen then touched them. Although a policy or campaign to reduce the presence of potential allergens in publica areas should be authorized, this will not happen over night and there will always be a risk, so it is advised to follow the same precautions as you would if you were avoiding sickness when using public transport.
- Avoid sitting next to a person who is eating anything.
- Try to get a seat rather than standing as then you won’t have to touch the handrail- if this is not possible carry anti-septic wipes so you can quickly wipe down the handrail/ handles/arm rests or table in front of you.
- Check your seat before sitting down if theres any food wrappers/food waste on the seat or on the arm rests.
- Wash your hands as soon as possible after using public transport- Metal poles, straps, tray tables, seat belts, and other surfaces passengers touch are often contaminated with microbes and bacteria.
- If someone is eating an allergen on your journey and you feel uncomfortable, be confident and just say ‘’I’m really sorry to bother you but I’m allergic to —, would you mind eating that later’’. Usually people are very understanding and will often be very apologetic but if they are not showing consideration for your safety then move seats if you can or if given assigned seats ask to move.
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use after transport, touching doors, handles, cupboard or drawer handles and most definitely before you handle your own food or eat anything.