Picnic Fair Festival Food - Invisibly Allergic Blog

Tips For Attending Fairs, Picnics, & Festivals With A Food Allergy

Attending Public Events With A Food Allergy

Whether you’re attending a carnival, fair, circus event, community picnic, or festival, there’s a lot of potential peanuts hidden around in fried food, beverages, snacks, baked goods, and products such as animal feed. Not to mention, some top allergens are out in plain sight in events like these, such as boiled peanuts or spiced roasted nuts. 

With a little prep work in advance, these popular and common events can become a positive experience with less life-threatening risk. I’m going to share my top X tips to attend fairs, festivals (music or other), picnics (i.e. church picnics, work picnics), and really any similar outdoor or hybrid indoor-outdoor public event!

6 Food Allergy Tips For Public Events:

  • 1. Bring your own snacks and drinks/water if you can.
    • I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t snuck in some safe granola bars and snacks to a music festival before. I definitely have, and I’ve had a few confiscated, which is always annoying! To try to prevent this from happening if outdoor food/drink isn’t allowed, I will contact the event beforehand and see if they can make an exception for me and explain that I can’t eat there or easily find safe non-contaminated products to eat and drink. Shoutout to Shaky Knees in Atlanta for being accommodating in this way.
    • If I need to buy a drink, I prefer to find one in a can or bottle, vs a straw or loose cup situation, so I can wipe the mouth area and or know the bottle opening isn’t contaminated and that there is less risk of cross-contact. At most of the music-type festivals I’ve been to, they have water stations and typically let you bring an empty water bottle in, which I really like. 
  • 2. Drive yourself or arrange your ride to-and-from beforehand.
    • In case your friends want to go to an area where it’s congested or closed-in, or if you’ve explored everything you wanted to do, it’s nice to not feel stuck in overly populated spaces like these where the risk level is high.
    • If you feel you’re getting itchy, or you see too many of your allergen around and you feel in a panic, I prefer to not be reliant on someone else driving me home who is at the event. My #1 priority is to leave the contaminated area, and I can always call someone or figure out a situation to get home after, but health and avoiding an allergic reaction are always my first concern. Driving myself and/or arranging a ride to pick me up is a way to make attending risky events less stressful. 
  • 3. Bring moist towelettes to be able to wipe any surfaces, your hands, tokens, change, etc.!
    • I recently went to a church-type of community picnic in order to play festival games you had to exchange your dollars for dimes to play. If I had known this in advance, I would’ve raided my change to bring my own from home, but I didn’t. As I exchanged my dollar bill for a small cup of dimes, I noticed the people putting the dimes in the containers were simultaneously snacking on salted peanuts. It goes to show that you truly never know when you may be coming in contact with peanut dust, or your life-threatening allergen! Luckily, I noticed and decided I didn’t need to play the games and also that it was about time I left and went home and took a shower because I felt contaminated! 
  • 4. If you want to try festival/fair/picnic food, ask questions until you feel comfortable!
    • If you can find out beforehand some vendors or food trucks that will be there, I would plan to reach out in advance with your food allergy questions! If a vendor doesn’t know about their ingredients, or doesn’t seem to be aware of allergens, you may not want to risk it. If they do, but you feel in your gut you shouldn’t eat it, follow your instinct. It is YOUR food allergy and so it depends on your own comfort level and where you fall on the food allergy spectrum,. I always suggest doing what feels right to you and to try to not be swayed by ourside influences. If I’m going to be around a bunch of fried food and delicious-smelling food trucks, I will either indulge at home beforehand in safe foods that are similar, or I will eat healthy similar foods instead if that’s more what I’m in the mood for, and feel good and satisfied in my body about that decision and nourishment in prioritizing myself.
  • 5. Always, always, always carry your epinephrine injectors and Benadryl.
    • If it’s warm weather, I will keep my epinephrine in a temperature controlled insulin-carrying case that will keep them cool on a hot summer day to prevent the epinephrine expiring. Here’s a link to the carrying case I use, it’s a brand called FRIO – but there are all types, so get anything that works for you and/or your budget!
  • 6. Bring a N95/KN95 mask!
    • If you are airborne and cross-contact reactive feel like there may be a chance you could benefit from having a mask on-hand, the beauty of masks is that they are easy to fit into any bag or pocket! I often don’t end up using mine, but I get a sense of security when I’ve got one on hand. I prefer N95 or KN95 masks to make sure I’m filtering out airborne particles as best as I can. With COVID-19, these were hard to get for a while, but I’ve found they’re re-stocked online and in-stores again. The 3M N95 masks have a great fit that I recommend, but everyone’s face shapes are different. Plus, you get sick less often when you wear a mask in public spaces! If you haven’t read it, I have a post all about wearing masks which goes much more in-depth on the subject of preventing allergic reactions to allergenic foods.

I hope this blog post is helpful for any event you may be attending!! Here are a few pictures of me attending various events like a fair, music festival, and community picnic!


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