Eating Out with Food Allergies and Intolerances

Food allergies are a hassle. They pose some serious inconveniences as well as potential risks for the person affected. Allergy attacks are manageable, however, when eating out you need to be extra carefully about what you order.

When eating out, you may encounter foods that are on your allergy list. Sometimes, these foods will be indicated on the menu, but other times, they may not. You shouldn’t let this become a hindrance when you dine out because there are ways to manage it.

Differentiating Between Food Allergy and Intolerance

Food allergy and intolerance are different things. Allergy refers to the immune system’s abnormal reaction to certain foods. Intolerance on the other hand refers to the body’s difficulty in digesting particular substances in food. A usual reaction involves diarrhea, bloating and cramps.


How to Manage Food Allergy and Intolerance When Eating Out

According to New South Wales Food Authority, Australia has one of the highest rates of allergy on a global scale. Food allergy occurs within 1 in 20 children in NSW and about 1 in 100 adults. Food intolerance affects 25% of the population. In the US, a third of the population suffer from food allergies.

Allergic reactions account for a high number of emergency cases around the world. Mild allergies can be manageable, however, allergy attacks that range form moderate to severe are the ones to watch out for; they can prove fatal to the sufferer. So, how do you handle food allergies and intolerance when eating out?

Be aware of the foods that cause you allergic reactions


Come up with a food diary once you suspect you’re starting to get reactions from certain foods. List down the foods and possible ingredients and note any possible symptoms you are experiencing.

After some time, the food you’re intolerant or allergic to will become clear to you. For proper guidance, ask your doctor for advice and to get some tests done.

The first step to avoiding possible misshaps when eating out is to know exactly what you are allergic to.

Ask about restaurant recommendation


If you know people around you who also have allergies and intolerance to certain foods, try to compare notes and ask them about restaurants that serves certain foods. You can also ask these people and even search on Google for restaurants that cater to customers with certian food specifications.

Choose a restaurant that caters to allergy and intolerance


Call the restaurant prior to eating out


Call at a reasonable hour when you know that it won’t be too busy for them to answer some of your questions. Ask for menus and if they can make any special prepaprations for your allergy or intolerance. This way, they can prepare a meal for you, making sure not to include anything you have an intolerance to. Make sure that what you are requesting will be relayed to the waiting staff or the next chef in case there is a shifting of employees.

Some restaurants have menus available online which you can browse. This can be very helpfull but it’s still best to call and talk to them directly.

Eat out at a recommended time


Plan to eat out during off-peak hours. This usually means more accommodating staff and less customers. Going to a restaurant during busy hours means you’re less likely to find employees who will take the time to make sure your meal is right for your allergies. Schedule an hour ahead of regular eating hours or ask the staff direclty about the best time to come in if you have special requirements. This way, you will get to request possible menu changes and avoid cranky replies from staff who are too busy.

Check menu in advance


As said, you can call ahead or check the website of the restaurant you are planning to go to. Check if their menus will cater to your needs or not. Check for ingredients in certain recipes that you can’t eat. You might also be able to find customer reviews online.

Be vocal about your allergy


Sometimes people with intolerancse and allergies are not very vocal when letting people know of their food needs. Perhaps they don’t want to cause an inconvenience or they know they’ve never had any major reactions, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The truth is, allergic reactions and intolerances can vary in magnitude and they can manifest differently from past attacks.

Bring a chef card

Your chef card will serve as a way to communicate with your servers and the chef about the foods you have allergic reactions to. Laminate this card to make sure it lasts longer and make spare ones in case you leave it at a restaurant. Plan ahead and make your chef cards in different languages in case you plan to travel abroad.

Make your chef card polite so as not to sound too demanding.

Here’s a sample:


The back of the card can contain a more detailed request:


Indicate any meds you brought with you in case you suffer from an attack which requires immediate aid.

Be polite in your requests


The tone of your requests can help in getting those requests successfully. Smile and explain everything to the staff in a polite way. Over the last decade, many restaurants have become very flexible with their offerings, catering to every customer’s reasonable requests. But don’t expect this kind of service in fast food chains!

Always bring your allergy meds


It’s always best to be prepared. Bring your shots or meds with you while you travel or whenever you are going out of the house.

Now You Can Eat Out!

Sometimes, allergies can impair your want to socialize and have fun. However, there are ways to surpass this. You can get through these problems and manage your condition without life threatening results. Intolerances and allergies shouldn’t be an excuse for you to stop living your life. Always keep your shots and meds near you and you’ll be okay. Other precautions, like visiting your doctor, are important too.

In case of emergency, here are a few things you can do for allergy attacks:

  1. Call emergency hotline (May vary from country to country).
  2. Minor reactions can be remedied by antihistamines, deocongestants and other meds.
  3. Check for the person’s purse or bag for Epinephrine shots in case of anaphylxis.
  4. If there are no meds on hand, perform CPR and bring the patient to the hospital immediately.

Stay healthy and avoid foods you have reactions to!


Featured image: PicJumbo

Other images: Pixabay



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