Valentine’s Day is an entire day set aside for expressing your love for others. It’s a day of showing appreciation, love, and sometimes a little romance. For twenty-four hours, we set out to spread happiness and cheer in the lives of our loved ones. What could be bad about that?
For someone with food allergies, any day could be threatening but Valentine’s Day could be deadly. As people with food allergies, we live in a world filled with the foods that could hurt us, even kill us. We encounter them everywhere we go. We take drastic measures to keep ourselves safe and free from exposure to those dangerous foods. But on a day made for sharing, safety can be more elusive. Sharing can be deadly for us.
Kisses, for one thing, can be extremely risky. How so? Food allergens can stay in saliva for hours. Our digestive system starts in the mouth, when we take the first bite of food. The saliva moistens the food while the teeth break down the food into smaller pieces. Those tiny pieces of food allergens can remain in saliva for hours. Rinsing your mouth, brushing your teeth, and chewing gum are actions that can help remove the food allergen proteins more quickly, but they are not fail-proof. Food can be trapped between teeth and in braces or other orthodontic equipment, causing the food allergen proteins to be present in saliva for extended amounts of time.
Saliva is not the only carrier of food allergens. Facial hair such as mustaches, and the currently popular full beard, can carry traces of food allergens too. My husband, who has a beard, came home from work one day and kissed our four-year-old son on the cheek. Our son’s cheek immediately started swelling and turning an intense red. I asked my husband what he had eaten earlier in the day and he responded that he had eaten peanut butter crackers earlier that morning, but that he had rinsed his mouth out and washed his face immediately after consumption. That was eight hours prior to kissing our son on the cheek. Our son is extremely allergic to peanuts. With this in mind, my husband took extra precautions after consuming peanut products. Most times, that is enough. Unfortunately, sometimes, it is not. Studies have shown that transmission of food allergy proteins through saliva has resulted in anaphylaxis. Thankfully, the contact reaction was the full extent of my son’s reaction that day. It was an eye-opening experience for both my husband and I.
Sharing utensils, cups, and straws can also be dangerous for those with food allergies. Buffets and pot-lucks make us cringe. All the shared spoons, forks, and tongs have anaphylaxis written all over them. Sharing, in these instances, is just not safe. Skip the fondue date this year for a more allergy friendly meal.
How about this Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love with a little different approach? Share kindness, not food. Acts of kindness go a long way! If you must buy a gift, instead of the traditional gift of the variety box of chocolates, give a book. You can’t go wrong with a book, right? Well, I may be a little biased. I am a writer, after all. But seriously, you can never have too many books.
If you must share kisses, be sure they are “safe.” Happy Valentine’s Day! Be kind and be safe!