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How To Dine Out If You Have a Food Allergy

food-allergies-01Food allergies shouldn’t prevent you from dining out with your friends and family. Unfortunately, though, many people with food allergies resort to cooking their own meals to reduce the risk of an adverse reaction. From dairy and nuts to gluten (wheat-based protein) and shellfish, there are certain foods that people must avoid to prevent adverse reactions.

The Growing Problem of Food Allergies

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAA), approximately 8% of the world’s population suffers from some type of food allergy, which translates into roughly 25.4 million Americans.

Symptoms of food allergies can range from minor itchy hives to severe, potentially even-life threatening inflammation and other complications. Celiac disease – one of the most common types of food allergies – is characterized by an autoimmune attack on the small intestines after consuming gluten. The immune system views gluten as a foreign invader, at which point it responds by attacking the digestive system, causing pain, gas, bloating, abdominal pains, and other adverse symptoms.

Choosing The Right Restaurant

It’s important for people with food allergies to be selective when choosing restaurants. The rising prevalence of food allergies has spurred many establishments to create special menus and adapt new techniques to better cater towards the needs of people with such allergies. If you have celiac disease or any other type of gluten intolerance/sensitivity, for instance, you might be able to order from a “gluten-free menu.”

One type of restaurant that people with food allergies should avoid is a buffet. With dishes placed side by side, there’s a high risk of cross contamination. Restaurants that make their dishes ahead of time are also a poor choice for patrons with food allergies.

Choose restaurants that place an emphasis on both the quality of their food and customer service. It’s not a bad idea to look up customer reviews on websites like Yelp and Google, as this paints an accurate picture of the restaurant’s willingness to work with its customers.

Communicate With Your Server

The single most important step in dining out if you have a food allergy is communicating your condition with your server. Don’t assume that a dish is safe to east just because the ingredient to which you are allergic is not listed on the menu. If the chef prepares your dish on a cutting board that’s contaminated with the ingredient, you may experience an allergic reaction.

When ordering, politely inform your server about your condition. Tell him or her what foods trigger an allergic reaction, and that even small trace amounts can lead to an adverse reaction. You don’t want to come off as “pushy,” but at the same time you must protect yourself against food allergies. An experienced server should make a note on the order ticket, notifying the chef about your condition.

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