Here’s the scene: A great first date is winding down, and all of a sudden you’re swapping spit. A few minutes later, you’re on the way to the ER. Definitely a night to remember!
For people with severe allergies, this is a real-life possibility, says Jan Hanson, a food allergy expert. Peanut residue, for example, can last in the mouth hours after someone eats it – and this can trigger a serious reaction in people who suffer from severe allergies, says Hanson.
Symptoms can show up fast, too. In a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, 5.3% of people with food allergies reported instant reactions from kissing, says Hanson. Think: Everything from hives to swollen lips – or even something more serious like anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction.
Of course, while food is one of the most common allergies, dating can bring you into contact with insect stings (nice walk in the park, anyone?) and latex (hello, condoms), too – which are both other big allergens.
“There are about 60 million Americans who may be allergic to latex,” says Hanson. Furthermore, there’s a relative lack of education on the allergy, which results in what Hanson refers to as a “level of socially subscribed skepticism” – or people not really taking it as seriously as they should.
Have an allergy – or getting cosy with someone who does? Make sure you’re safe in the bedroom, on a date and everywhere in between.
1. Speak up!
“It’s important to be able to communicate your allergy,” says Hanson. After all, having someone nearby who is aware of your condition and can call an ambulance in a moment of need can be the difference between life and death. So before you head out, stick to a single line – something like: “I just want to be up front with you that I have a severe allergy to [insert allergy here].” Also let them know if you carry an epinephrine shot and if there are any measures that should be taken if something were to go south.
2. About that epinephrine shot…
Hanson notes the importance of these injections, which can reverse low blood pressure, hives and additional side effects of an allergic reaction in a scary moment. But if you’re facing a reaction, you also want to head to the ER – even if you’ve injected. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening – and always requires emergency medical attention, she says.
3. Know the symptoms
Allergic reactions tend to look the same on TV: Hives, rashes and swelling. And those are real symptoms, says Hanson. But signs can range from trouble breathing or tightness in your throat to decreased blood pressure, light-headedness and fainting. So stay on top of any out-of-the-blue changes that could signal a problem.
4. Remember: Some allergens are airborne
In general, it’s important to understand that allergens can be passed through the air, not just via physical contact. For example, it’s possible that powder released from the packaging of a condom could be enough to trigger some sort of reaction, says Hanson. Of course, if you have a severe allergy, you should always consult your doctor to ID the specifics of that allergy, she says.
5. Consider other forms of birth control
Latex allergies don’t need to kill your sex life. Just consider alternative forms of contraception. For one, non-latex condoms are an option, but so are hormonal forms of birth control, like the Pill or an IUD. Not sure what’s best for you? Ask your doc – and make sure to be honest with your partner. “Even if it seems like an uncomfortable conversation, it’s preferable to a life-threatening reaction,” says Hanson.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthsa.co.za
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