A resource for young adults living with severe allergy

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Alcohol and Allergy

Top Tips For Alcohol and Allergy

  1. When drinking, always take your EpiPens® with you.
  2. Drinking too much can lead to a more relaxed attitude to food allergy management. Alcohol consumption can make you and your friends less careful about strategies to help keep you safe.
  3. Know what food allergens may be present in your drinks.
"When drinking alcohol, make sure a friend knows what to do if you have an allergic reaction."

Alcohol and Food Allergy

Alcohol can affect your judgement, resulting in risky behaviour.

Soon after your 18th birthday, you may find that more and more of the social activities you attend will include the consumption of alcohol. You might be invited to more parties where alcohol has a larger presence, or you might go out to bars and clubs.

In terms of food allergy, you need to be aware of the associated risks you may take when under the influence of alcohol.

Risky behaviour while drunk:

  • Eating foods without labels.
  • Not asking about ingredients in your food or drinks – some alcoholic drinks contain common food allergens.
  • Not knowing where your EpiPens are.
  • Sharing drinks, straws or cutlery.
  • Becoming intimate with people who may have eaten a food or a drink you are allergic to.

Signs that someone has had too much to drink (vomiting, confusion, dizziness or collapse) can be similar to signs of an allergic reaction including anaphylaxis. People may think you have collapsed due to drinking rather than an allergic reaction/anaphylaxis.

A guide to drinking smart.

  • Check whether the drink contains anything you might be allergic to. 
    • Liqueurs can contain nuts and dairy
    • Cocktails can contain egg whites as well as milk-based or nut-based liqueurs
    • Beers can contain wheat and nuts
    • Wines can contain sulphites, eggs, milk or fish
  • Read labels and avoid home-mixed drinks or cocktails.
  • Eat before you drink and remember to drink plenty of water too.
  • Let your friends know where your EpiPen is in case you have an allergic reaction.

Night Clubs and Pubs

Night clubs and pubs may become a popular hangout for your social circle during early adult years. Make sure you always have your EpiPens and ASCIA Action Plan with you when you go out.

Think about how you are going to carry your EpiPens. If you are going out dancing or hanging out in a pub, you might find it hard to carry your EpiPens.

Tips for carrying an EpiPen when out on the town:

  • Girls – carry a small purse or clutch that is large enough to fit both EpiPens and your ASCIA Action Plan.
  • Guys – man bags are popular – choose a sporty or trendy one so that your friends won’t make a fuss.
  • Use a slim-line bum bag that you can clip around your waist and conceal under a t-shirt.
  • Purchase an ankle strap which can be hidden under a pair of loose pants.
  • Ask a trusted friend (or girlfriend) to carry your medication in their purse or bag for you. If you do this, make sure you stay with them and get it back at the end of the night.

Ordering food and drinks

It’s not uncommon for bar staff to bring over a complimentary bowl of nuts when you sit down at a table in a bar. It can be a little confronting and unnerving to be automatically served the food you are allergic to. If this happens, politely ask that the bar staff to take the bowl away and wipe down the table. Explain that you have a food allergy, and it’s important that the table is clean.

When ordering drinks, you need to check for potential food allergens, just like when purchasing a food. Cocktails can contain egg whites, as well as milk-based or nut-based liqueurs. There are other things to consider too:

  • The bar equipment may not be cleaned very well after use, leaving trace amounts of your food allergen.
  • Bars/clubs can be loud, making it difficult to ask about ingredients in cocktails. For this reason, it may be best to avoid cocktails all together and choose a beer/cider, wine or spirit and soda that you know don’t contain the food you are allergic to.

If you are going out with a new group that you don’t know as well and maybe have not disclosed your allergy, be sure to wear medical identification jewellery. There are some that look like a piece of jewellery and others that look like the many coloured stretchy wristbands people wear.

It’s important to enjoy your time out with friends, colleagues and family but also to stay vigilant, and know where your medication is at all times.

"When drinking alcohol, make sure a friend knows what to do if you have an allergic reaction."