Patients with life-threatening (also called IgE-Mediated) food allergies need to take special precautions at all times to be sure to avoid a severe reaction or anaphylaxis.  Food allergies can lead to increased stress or avoidance of eating out at restaurants. While we always recommend carrying an up-to-date epinephrine auto-injector (remember, always carry two!) and reading food labels, there are several other strategies that can be used to ensure a safe and pleasant dining out experience, even for those with food allergies.

Recently, results of a large survey were shared at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting, on strategies that patients and families use to avoid reactions when dining out in restaurants.

The survey compared strategies utilized by patients who never had a reaction while dining out, versus patients who have had prior reactions to see if there was a difference in “strategies” or safety measures used (the strategies are listed below). The difference was astonishing! They found that patients who had never reacted while out to eat utilized on average 15 strategies each time, while patients who had prior reactions used 6 strategies.  Increasing how many safe practices or strategies you use can help keep you safe from reactions.

The top 5 strategies used were:

  1. Speaking to the waiter upon arrival
  2. Ordering food with simple ingredients
  3. Double-checking food before eating
  4. Avoiding restaurants with high likelihood of cross-contamination
  5. Reviewing ingredients on the restaurant’s website

Other strategies include:

-Going to an allergy-friendly restaurant

-Limiting dining out with travel

-Calling the restaurant ahead of time

-Going out to eat during off-peak hours

-Asking how food is prepared

-Asking to speak to the chef and/or manager

-Asking to read labels

-Using an “allergy card”

-Wiping tables and chairs

-Informing those you are dining with about your allergy

-Ordering familiar food at a familiar restaurant

-Bringing your own safe foods or snacks to supplement meal

-Placing food allergy order separately


 A great resource for finding food allergy-friendly restaurants is

Source: Ade, Justine et al. Preventing Food Allergy Reactions at Restaurants: Comparing strategies Used Between Reactors and Non-Reactors. University Hospitals/Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. ACAAI 2018 E-poster.