Emerging from the Pandemic: Navigating the Social Scene with Food Allergies

Truth be told, my family has found great comfort in staying home during this pandemic and avoiding tricky social scenarios involving food. In many ways, our life has been easier and less stressful. The vigilance COVID-19 required was not unlike the constant vigilance required to manage daily life with food allergies. We quickly adjusted.

We have dined out and ordered out from a few of our trusted places, but that’s about it. As a food allergy mom, I’ve learned there’s great solace in routine and being in total control of the food that is served. I’ve also learned it’s my responsibility to model behavior and help my daughter live her life to the fullest, while safely managing her food allergies. We can’t stay home forever!

The return to socializing around food is a warm welcome for most people. For those of us managing food allergies, or other medically necessary restricted diets, this might feel quite daunting.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and begin to gather with family, friends, classmates, teammates and work colleagues again, it’s important to brush up on our food allergy management and risk mitigation strategies when dining out.

With a little review and preparation, we can do this successfully! I like the saying, “Be prepared, not scared.” That’s how I try to encourage my food allergic teenager as she gains more independence. It’s alot like learning how to drive.

Here are My Top 10 Tips to Remember:

  1. Never leave home without your two epinephrine auto injectors and your Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan.
  2. Prepare by looking online at menus, or food allergy ratings on apps such as AllergyEats or Spokin.
  3. Call the restaurant or catering venue in advance, and ask about thier ability to accommodate food allergies.
  4. Upon arrival, notify the Manager and/or Chef about your food allergies.
  5. Utilize a Chef’s Card like EqualEats to help communicate your food allergies with the kitchen staff.
  6. Never assume an item is safe on the menu without asking about your allergens.
  7. Ask about ingredients and the possibility for cross contact with allergens during food preparation.
  8. Be cautious with high risk items/areas, such as breads, desserts, dressings, sauces and buffets (we usually avoid).
  9. If this seems too daunting, eat before or after the event.
  10. If unsure about the food being served, “When in doubt, go without.” Your health and well being are most important!

Take a deep breath.

Brush off those skills.

Start at a restaurant that has worked well with your food allergy needs before the pandemic.

We will keep advocating for policy change for Food Allergy Education and Training for Restaurants, to help improve the safety and quality of life for the 32 million Americans managing this potentially life threatening diagnosis.

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