VIENNA, VIRGINIA, NOVEMBER 22, 2016 – Eating out is an American pastime – but for the millions of Americans with food or latex allergies, navigating the maze of restaurant and menu options can prove challenging, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Allergy & Asthma Network, the leading nonprofit patient education organization for people with asthma, allergies and anaphylaxis, says allergy-related restaurant safety requires three things:
- an awareness and understanding of your food or latex allergies
- thoughtful preparation in choosing a restaurant and meal
- safety precautions to treat accidental exposures
“First and foremost, you need to know what you’re allergic to,” says Tonya Winders, Allergy & Asthma Network President and CEO. “This is not a time for guesswork, as restricting your diet unnecessarily can hamper healthy nutrition. See a board-certified allergist for an accurate diagnosis, then carefully consider what you need to change in your kitchen and your lifestyle to avoid exposure to your allergens.”
Once you know your allergies, research restaurants in your area to find ones that can accommodate you. Avoid buffets, which pose a risk of cross-contamination; pre-made foods, where the chef is unable to eliminate an ingredient; and a menu that frequently uses your allergen.
Choose a quiet time to visit or call and talk with managers about their food preparation, serving policies and staff training procedures. Find out which meals might be safe for you to eat. That way you’re prepared when you’re ready to eat out.
Chef Keith Norman, Assistant Executive Chef and Food Safety Manager at South Point Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, Anaphylaxis Community Expert (ACE) volunteer and Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team board member, recommends asking the following questions:
- How does the staff handle special allergy requests?
- Does staff know the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction?
- Does the restaurant carry epinephrine?
- Has the staff been trained to administer epinephrine?
- What specific training have the food service and culinary teams completed?
- What standard allergy procedures are in place for front-of-house and back-of-house?
When you arrive at a restaurant to eat, follow up with the host and serving staff on duty and notify them of your allergies. Carry a personalized card that clearly lists your allergies and give it to your server. That way, you don’t have to rely on verbal communication passing from server to kitchen.
If you are latex allergic, talk with the chef about cross-reactive foods, be on the lookout for latex balloons, especially in party or banquet rooms, and ask the host staff if the kitchen personnel use latex gloves or latex utensils during any aspect of food preparation.
“Do not be bashful about the severity of your allergy and the potential consequences if you are exposed,” Chef Norman says. “Remember: It’s an allergy not a preference!”
Finally, be prepared. Accidents happen, even with the most meticulous preparation. Learn what allergy symptoms to watch for and which might signal anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Carry an up-to-date Anaphylaxis Action Plan that tells you and your friends what to do if they appear. Always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors and know how to use them.
About Allergy & Asthma Network
Allergy & Asthma Network is the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. Allergy & Asthma Network specializes in sharing family-friendly, medically accurate information through its award-winning publication Allergy & Asthma Today magazine, E-newsletter, https://allergyasthmanetwork.org and numerous community outreach programs. Follow Allergy & Asthma Network on Facebook at facebook.com/AllergyAsthmaHQ and Twitter at twitter.com/AllergyAsthmaHQ. Join Allergy & Asthma Network at https://allergyasthmanetwork.org/join.
The Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) program is developed by Allergy & Asthma Network in partnership with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), National Association of School Nurses and American School Health Association and sponsored by Mylan Specialty L.P. The program goal is to save lives through showing parents, school staff, emergency responders, and others how to recognize and respond immediately to anaphylaxis symptoms.
To learn more about the ACE program or request an ACE team presentation, email Brenda Silvia-Torma, ACE Program Manager at ace@AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org.
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. Join on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.