Because life-threatening food allergy reactions can be triggered by food items served in restaurants, it’s important to plan ahead before dining out.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Know the alternate names for your trigger foods and avoid them
Hidden or surprise ingredients are a common cause of fatal allergic food reactions, such as crushed nuts in pie crust or foods cooked in peanut oil. In addition, some products used by chefs, including sauces and dressings, may list ingredients by alternate names. For example, peanuts may be called ground nuts, beer nuts or monkey nuts.It’s essential that you’re familiar with all the names of the food that causes your severe allergic reaction. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology provide accurate, up-to-date information on specific foods that can cause a severe allergic reaction.
Check the menu or website in advance — or call
Reading the restaurant’s menu thoroughly, or checking its website in advance, will make communicating with your server, or the chef, easier and quicker. You can always pick up the phone — this works well if your dish will require special preparation.
Eat at off-peak hours
A customer with special needs can really catch a restaurant off guard. Dining at off-peak times — for example, this means having dinner before six or after nine o’clock — may increase the likelihood of ensuring that more attention can be paid to you.
Talk to the wait staff or chef
Restaurant employees generally receive little or no training on the severe nature of food allergies. They’re often unaware of the need to read and understand ingredient labels, the importance of strict avoidance of certain foods, and the necessity of avoiding cross-contact during food preparation.Therefore it’s important to make them aware of your food allergy. One way is to hand them an allergy card with your name, food allergy and specific ingredients to avoid.While convenient, these cards don’t replace telling the restaurant about your allergy. Explain your condition thoroughly — before any food is brought to the table — and request that certain ingredients not be used in your food. If the server doesn’t seem to understand the severity of your allergies, ask to speak to the chef or manager. And if you still feel like the restaurant staff doesn’t understand the risk, you might want to eat somewhere else.
Be sure to have your EpiPen® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector with you when dining out
A life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) can happen anywhere and at any time, so it’s essential for you and your loved ones to be prepared in the event of an emergency.Make sure you speak with your health care professional about how to identify the signs and symptoms of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). If you, your child or someone you're caring for shows signs or symptoms of a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), inject the health care professional-prescribed EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. immediately, then promptly call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.