How to Avoid Food Allergies when Eating at Restaurants

Allergic reactions can happen at restaurants quite frequently if not properly cared for. It can be tough to eat out if you are allergic to things, but it is possible.


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    Find out what you are allergic to. Ask your doctor or local pediatrician about your allergies and what they are. Your doctor will likely tell you about your allergies. Look back at your family line, and see what your family is allergic to.
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    Choose restaurants that have a wide variety or no foods of the allergy you have. Some restaurants offer food for just people with nut allergies, while some just give you a bunch of options. In general, big chain restaurants will also have standardized menu with ingredients lists you can look up online (although you still should check with the staff of the specific restaurant you're going to about their procedures, in case they do things differently). Generally, you can just search "(Name of Restaurant) Allergy Information." Also, most large cities have online forums for people with food allergies. You can check those out to find out which local restaurants other food-allergic people recommend.
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    Ask your server about ingredients in their food before ordering it. Your server has probably had to cook before, and knows what is in the food. Tell them what you are allergic to and ask what they recommend. If they don't have any information, politely ask to speak to the manager. You can also bring a Chef Card for them to take back into the kitchen. This can be as simple as an index card you make yourself, or you can also order one from a company online. Chef Cards have your allergy information written on them, so that the actual cooks can know what you mean in your own words. If you are going to a restaurant where the cooks might not speak English, such as a Chinese restaurant, you can bring a Chef Card in the anticipated language, such as Mandarin. Also, if you are very sensitive, be sure to specify on the cards, to the waiter, or both that cross-contamination of ingredients is something to watch out for.
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    Many restaurants really appreciate it if you tell them about a food allergy so that they can prepare your order away from other foods. They may take special care to use a clean cutting board or knives. This is especially important for severe allergies.
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    Stay away from people that ordered something you are allergic to, particularly if you have an extremely severe allergy that can be triggered by smell. Also keep in mind that different situations, such as an adult calmly eating a peanut butter sandwich versus a toddler smearing his peanut butter all over the table, carry different levels of risk. You might want to bring wet wipes to clean your seating area before you eat there. You can also bring your own silverware.
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    Order water. Some pops and milk can contain things like soy and dairy products. If you do order them, look at the label or ask your server if they have soy milk or caffeine free pop.
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    Pick out the parts you are allergic to. If you ordered a salad, but are allergic to tomatoes, with a fork and spoon, carefully lift the tomato out of the salad and onto a napkin or dirty plate. PLEASE note that this should only be done if you have a VERY MILD allergy. Also, if you are very clear about your allergy, and the staff is very clear that they can handle it, and then your food shows up with your allergen in it, don't be afraid to send it back or to leave the restaurant entirely.
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    Bring the antidote to your allergy. If you accidentally eat or touch your allergy, you need to have an antidote nearby. Administer the medication yourself if possible, or ask your server to do so if you are completely incapacitated.


  • Don't be afraid to ask your server about allergies.
  • You can ask your doctor to do skin test for allergies, that way you can learn which kind of foods you are allergic to.
  • If you want to have ice cream at a traditional ice cream parlor, but are worried about cross-contamination between flavors that have your allergen in them (such as a peanut butter-flavored ice cream), you can ask the people behind the counter to open a new case of the ice cream you want. Some places won't do it, but others will oblige.


  • If you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded tell the waiter immediately!
  • Always tell the waiter if you have an allergy so they can cook anything without that ingredient/warn you which foods have that ingredient.
  • Ask the waiter if you need anything cooked specifically so you don't get a reaction.
  • Sometimes you may feel an itching sensation, edematous symptoms (fluid swelling beneath the skin) and coughing, these are also symptoms of having a current allergic reaction. Visit your doctor to relieve these symptoms as well as for medical advice.
  • DO NOT say that you are allergic to something if you do not like it or if it gives you a stomachache. There is a very big difference between intolerance and allergies. Please do not confuse the two.
  • Always make sure to not eat anything you are allergic to.

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Categories: Allergies and Immunization