Food Allergies & Public Events
It’s exciting times right now where I live, because the Kentucky State Fair is currently happening as I release this blog post! I personally have only been twice, a few years between one another, and both times were really fun, but attending the state fair is something I do have to be extra cautious about. There’s a lot of potential peanuts hidden around in fried food, snacks, baked goods, and animal feed.
With a little prep-work, it can be a good experience with little risk. I’m going to share my tips to attend a fair, festival (music or other), picnics (i.e. church picnics, work picnics), and really any similar outdoor or partially-outdoor event!
Tips for attending an event with a food allergy:
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 (and I’ve had a few confiscated, which is annoying!) & if I want to buy a drink, I would preferably try to find one in a can or bottle (vs a straw/cup situation), so I can wipe the mouth area and the drink itself is less likely to be contaminated. At most music festivals I’ve been to, they have water stations and typically let you bring an empty water bottle in, which I prefer. After having had safe snacks confiscated, I have reached out to music festivals in advance about being accommodated to allow my safe snacks to be brought in, and some have allowed this. All of them *should* but we know how accommodations can be iffy, unfortunately. Shoutout to Shaky Knees in Atlanta for being accommodating.
Drive yourself or arrange a ride 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 you’re stuck wherever you are. Also, if you feel you’re getting itchy, or you see too many of your allergen around and you need to get out, I prefer to not be reliant on someone else. Your #1 priority is to leave the contaminated area, you can always call someone or figure out a situation to get home after, but health and avoiding a reaction is always my first concern, and driving myself or arranging a ride contact who I can call to pick me up can make this easier.
Bring moist towelettes to be able to wipe any surfaces, your hands, tokens, change, anything! I recently went to a picnic where you had to exchange your dollars for dimes to play festival games, if I had known this, I would’ve raided my change to bring my own cross-contact free dimes, but I didn’t and 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 allergen! Side note: this link does not change this tip, but is an interesting new study involving moist towelettes/wet wipes being connected to food allergies… eep! For now I still use them religiously.
If you want to try festival/fair/picnic food, ask questions until you feel comfortable! If you can find out some vendors or food trucks that will be there, I would reach out in advance! If a vendor doesn’t know ingredients, and 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. I always suggest doing what feels right to you and to try to not be swayed by non-food allergic influences. If I’m going to be around a bunch of fried food and delicious-smelling food trucks, I will either indulge at home in safe foods that are similar beforehand, so I don’t feel left out, or I eat healthy instead if that’s more what I’m in the mood for, and feel good and satisfied in my body about that choice.
Always, always, always carry epinephrine and Benadryl. I personally keep my epinephrine in a special insulin carrying case that will keep them cool on a hot summer day, or warm in the cooler months, so they don’t expire. Here’s a link to the brand FRIO I use – but there are all types, so get anything that works for your budget!
Bring a mask! If you feel like there may be a chance you could want it, masks are so easy to fit into any bag. 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 K-N95 masks to make sure I’m filtering out airborne particles. 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.
I hope this is helpful for any event you may be attending!! Here are some pictures from various events like this below!