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How To Prepare When Going To Events With Food Allergies

November 22, 2022

Food allergies are rising in the U.S.

Unfortunately food allergies are an increasingly common condition. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that approximately 32 million Americans are affected by food allergies. And between 1997 and 2011, the number of children with food allergies increased a staggering 50 percent.

When you have food allergies, it’s not as simple as just saying “yes” when someone invites you to dinner. You need to tell your host that you or someone in your family has a food allergy, the key thing is to do so in a polite way.

Make Things Easy for Your Host

When you are invited to a friend’s home for a meal they may ask if you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies. 

When hosting in your home, it is now custom to inquire in advance if your prospective guests have food restrictions, as so many people do, and plan around medical, religious and philosophical diets. That doesn’t mean catering entirely to any one person, as long as they ensure that everyone can make a safe meal out of what is available and that no one is exposed to anything that might prove to be harmful.

Miss Manners, by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin
Family and friends of all ages and genders having dinner and celebrating a special occasion
Photo of big family sit feast dishes table around roasted turkey multi-generation, relatives making group selfies raising wine glasses juice in living room indoors

What if someone doesn’t know about my food allergies?

Even if you aren’t asked about food allergies or dietary restrictions, you can accept the invitation with grace and at the same time give information that will help protect your health. Here are four things you can tell your host ahead of time:

  1. Let the host know as soon as possible of any allergies. 
  2. Provide all the details including what you are allergic to as well as the sensitivity to exposure. 
  3. Offer to bring a side dish that meets your requirements and bring enough for the entire party.
  4. Offer to provide substitute ingredients if the host is amenable to using them, for example milk or egg substitutes that you use in your own cooking.
Group of friends ordering food at a restaurant
More restaurants are becoming aware of and sensitive to food allergies than ever before. They might even be able to provide additional menu information that will help you decide what to order.

Eating Out with Food Allergies

When visiting home or hosting friends, its common to go eat out together at a local restaurant. If you have food allergies, you should find out as soon as possible what restaurant you will be going to. Then, take these simple steps to make sure you won’t be exposed to food allergies when you eat out.

  1. Review the menu online to see what options are available that don’t contain allergens.
    Depending on your allergy and the severity of your potential reaction, you may need to forgo the event or suggest another place to eat. For example, those with severe allergic reactions to shellfish may want to forgo dining at a seafood restaurant due to risk of cross contamination or inhalation exposure.
  2. Call ahead to the restaurant and speak to the manager or chef about your allergies.
    The kitchen will appreciate the advance notice and can make special arrangements for prep areas and utensils to meet your requirements. More restaurants are becoming aware of and sensitive to food allergies than ever before. They might even be able to provide additional menu information that will help you decide what to order.
  3. Be prepared in case of an exposure.
    I always tell my patients to remember to keep your EpiPen Auto Injectors on hand in the event of an accidental exposure resulting in an anaphylactic reaction.

Medically Reviewed By: Sumana Reddy, MD
Reviewed on: Nov. 16, 2022

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We regularly check to see if the info in this article matches up with the latest scientific research and expert advice so that we can give you the most up-to-date information. See list of trusted resources here.

Understand Your Reactions

If you have food allergies, or are wondering if you have them, our food allergy specialists can diagnose and treat your reactions and create strategies to manage your exposure. Schedule an appointment and gain control of your symptoms and get back to living life.

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