Being a young person can be extremely difficult at the best of times. You're finding yourself as a person and exploring new possibilities. One of these is meeting someone you like and possibly starting to go out on dates with them and getting into a relationship with them. This can be a challenging experience for any young person however living with food allergies and anaphylaxis often complicates things. It can be difficult to get the other person to understand how your condition affects you and the implications it may. You also may not want to seem different so may lie about having your condition or down play the seriousness of the condition.
Most young people wouldn't think twice about having peanut butter on toast for breakfast or having a Reece's pieces as a snack. However, for someone suffering from a severe allergy to tree nuts or peanuts this simple snack will pose severe problems. The first thing I will say is it's important to let the other person know about your allergies. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do. When you want someone to like you often you don't want them to think of you as "weird" or "strange". You want them to see you like anyone else your age. You don't have to tell them all the specifics of your condition but at least cover the basics.
1. Let the person know about your allergies
As described above this can become a challenge however it is a very essential thing to do. You need to let them know about the foods in which you are allergic to so the person can try their best to avoid things. Let them know about things that may have your allergy in it. This may seem patronising as it's common sense to know that peanut butter contains peanuts but some things are not so obvious.
2. Tell the person to some degree what happens if you come into contact with something your allergic to
You don't have to tell them about your experiences of being in hospital with your allergies but letting them know how your condition affects you is a step in the right direction. Let them know that your allergy isn't simply a rash it is a severe condition. Tell them about the symptoms you get of your allergy. Being honest with them is a very vital thing to do. Don't down play the severity of things as this can make the person more inclined to ignore your warnings. Sometimes people think you're exaggerating when you say "my condition is life-threatening" however it is something that is imperative you do. Let them know the implications for you coming into contact with what you're allergic to. Maybe tell them that if you do have something that you can't have then you will need to go to hospital.
3. Tell them about your epi-pen
This can seem like a very daunting thing to explain to someone. I've had both good and bad experiences regarding showing someone my epi-pen. I had someone say to me "You've got to stick a needle in your leg!" whilst I've also had someone say "that's pretty cool". Explain to them that if you do have a reaction you will need to administer your epi-pen. Sometimes it's even a good idea to get a trainer epi-pen off your doctor (places like the anaphylaxis campaign also supply them) and show them how to use it so the process doesn't seem so daunting if it were to happen that you were to have to use it. Tell them what to do in the case of needing to use an epi-pen (calling 999 etc.).
4. Pre-plan your dates with them
Think about where you're going beforehand. This ensures that if you were going to an eating place you can check the allergen advice beforehand. Lots of eating places now publish their allergen advice online as well as having it available when you get there. Make sure to take into consideration that often eating places cannot completely guarantee the lack of cross contamination where your allergy is concerned. Suggest places which you know are safe for you to go to.
5. Carry all medication with you
It can sometimes be difficult to feel different from all your peers and those surrounding you however it's vital to make sure you take all your medication with you on a date. Hopefully nothing will happen whilst you're with the person but you need to be safe in case of a situation where you do need your medication.
6. Medical awareness jewellery
Something I've found very useful is my medic alert bracelet. You can get these of websites such as:
Medic alert: http://www.medicalert.org.uk/
These often come with very good wallet/purse cards which give information on what medical conditions you have and a number to call if anything were to happen. These can very useful for medical staff when assessing your condition and can help speak in an emergency situation when you cannot.
7. Have a clear emergency contact written in your phone
Nowadays people have the contact ICE written in their phone. This is the 'In case of emergency' contact, so the person you would want contacted if an emergency did occur. Have it clearly labelled on your phone who your emergency contact is so they can be contacted if need be. Some people have stickers on the back of their phone explaining who to call if anything were to happen and this can often be a good idea.
8. Don't kiss someone unless you know what they've been eating
If you have any doubts as to what someone has consumed do not risk kissing them. It is a common misconception that the person has to eat the allergen to have a reaction but in a lot of patients this is not the case as the protein, the thing that causes the allergen, can be transferred from mouth to mouth contact. When people get older and start going on night's out to clubs and pubs and such, often they will kiss someone whom they have never met before and know nothing about. This is best avoided if you suffer from a life-threatening allergy, or an allergy of any sort, as you have absolutely no idea what the person has come into contact with. It is not worth risking your health over!