I have lived with anaphylaxis since the age of 16. I very much spent the later part of my teenage years, like a lot of other teenagers, experimenting with alcohol in different settings whether it be house parties, parties, night clubs, pubs, etc. I found I faced new challenges surrounding this, challenges which people without allergies wouldn’t even think twice about. I’ve decided to put together some tips surrounding staying safe while enjoying alcohol and having a good time with allergies.
1. Ensure that you take all of your medication with you.
This is really important to do in any situation but particularly where alcohol is concerned. It’s been found that alcohol can increase your risk of reacting if you’re exposed to something you are allergic to. Young people can find it difficult being different to their peers and want to fit in so they may decide not to carry their adrenaline with them. This is a big no-no, particularly where alcohol is concerned.
2. Make sure you know where you are.
This may seem like common sense, but know the exact location for the place you are in, whether it be a home address or the address for a bar/nightclub. I myself have been in the situation where help was delayed as we couldn’t give an exact address for the place I was at. Thankfully this situation didn’t prove fatal. Help being delayed could potentially result in a fatality so it’s vital to have a mental note of your exact location so it can be given to emergency services straight away.
3. Be aware of what your drink contains.
Many people with allergies don’t realize that drinks can pose issues and could have your allergen within them, even though it seems like they are completely safe. For example amaretto can be made with almonds and would be unsafe for a person with an allergy to almonds, wine can contain sulphites so would be an issue for someone with a sulphite allergy, wine can even contain milk which could be problematic for someone allergic to milk. Drinks such as cocktails are definitely worth asking about what exactly is in them as sometimes the name doesn’t fully give it away. If in any doubt it’s best to avoid it entirely and select something you’ve had before and know is safe. I found this list to be really helpful in terms of steering me in the right direction as to what is best avoided and what I should ask about.
4. Have a medic alert.
This can be a life-saver if you, for example, fall unconscious (whether that be due to too much alcohol or the result of your reaction). It’s not only important to help alert someone that you do have allergies but also is good for medical staff to know what to avoid giving you if you are in a situation where you may be inebriated. Where young people are concerned, some people don’t want to wear a medic alert as they feel they will stick out, but many medic alert items are rather stylish and most people wouldn’t notice it. There are even items that are suitable for males such as dog tags or plain bracelets. Some examples of companies which do medic alert pieces are:
- Medic Alert: This is personally where I got my medic alert bracelet. Their items are a great price and there’s such a wide variety, there will be something to suit most people. The good thing about this company is they create a file with your information in it, you have a membership number and medical professionals can phone up Medic Alert’s number quoting your membership number and get information about you, and they also supply you with a card to keep in your wallet with more information than is on your item of jewelery.
- ICE Card: ICE Card supplies a range of different in case of emergency cards for a host of different medical conditions. They have wallet-sized cards as well as cards which go on your keys. The cards are plain and give you space to write your personal details as well as your emergency contacts and your GP practice etc. You can also get cards which allow you to write extra information on them so you can document as much as you like. Their products are greatly priced with the allergy pack costing only £4.99.
- The ID Band Company: They have a range of different styles of medical ID ranging from silicone bands and bracelets to charms and watches. Their IDs range in price and are a great value for the money. There’s something for anyone and they’re suitable for any gender and any age.
- Make your own: If you don’t wish to purchase a medic alert an idea is to make your own. I personally have wallet cards made with: my name, date of birth, address, GP surgery, my next of kin, medical conditions, allergies (and the reactions they cause i.e. anaphylaxis, rash etc.) and medication I take. This has proved so helpful when I’ve been in situations where I have had to have an ambulance phoned or I’ve ended up in hospital. This can be a real time saver when you have a lot of medical conditions or lots of allergies or take multiple medications. It can also really help speak for you when you can’t (i.e. you’re unconscious or you’re struggling to breathe). It can also help in the situation where you’ve been drinking as sometimes when you’re drunk you may struggle to make lots of sense.
5. Letting who you’re with know about your allergies and what to do in an emergency.
This is rather important when it comes to going out drinking. It can feel awkward in the sense some people don’t like telling others that they have allergies but it can truly be a life-saver in this situation. If you were to, for example, fall unconscious as the result of an allergic reaction, who you’re with is more likely to phone for medical help than if they aren’t aware of your allergies as they may just assume it’s alcohol related if they cannot rouse you.
I’ve personally been in the situation where I was faced with a friend having to phone an ambulance on a night out. I’d become unwell in the toilets and when I was found they automatically phoned an ambulance whereas if they weren’t aware of my health issues they may have just got me to go home instead. In this situation it was an anaphylactic reaction I was having so I’m very thankful they did phone for help. It can also be a good idea to let them know where you keep your medication so if you are in the situation where you are unwell they can easily find it which really speeds things up. Also let them know who you’d want contacted in the event you became unwell and needed to be taken to hospital. It can be an idea also ensuring they know certain things about you so they can tell medical staff things like: full name, date of birth, address, next of kin contact, medical conditions, allergies, medications currently taking, GP surgery (to make this easier for them it’s an idea to have it written down in some form of medic alert – see #4 above for more information). Another idea could be to train them on how to use your adrenaline auto-injector, an easy way to do this is by ordering a trainer pen for your particular type of auto-injector, these can be found at:
6. Don’t kiss someone unless you know what they’ve been eating.
If you have any doubts as to what someone has consumed, do not risk kissing them. It is a common misconception that the person has to eat the allergen to have a reaction but in a lot of patients this is not the case as the protein, the thing that causes the allergen, can be transferred from mouth to mouth contact. When people get older and start going on nights out to clubs and pubs and such, sometimes they will kiss someone whom they have never met before and know nothing about. This is best avoided if you have a life-threatening allergy, or an allergy of any sort, as you have absolutely no idea what the person has come into contact with. It is not worth risking your health over!