Q: I’m a teenager with severe allergies to tree nuts and sesame seeds. If my boyfriend eats something that I’m allergic to, how much time should we wait before kissing?
Dr. Sharma: Dating can sometimes pose challenges for teens with food allergies, and kissing has been found to sometimes cause allergic reactions.
In two studies between 5 and 12 percent of patients surveyed reported such reactions. Most of those reactions involved kissing shortly after the food allergen was eaten.
Dr. Scott Sicherer and his colleagues at Mount Sinai in New York conducted a study investigating the presence of peanut allergen in saliva after participants (who weren’t allergic) ate peanut butter. They found that waiting several hours – an average of four hours – after eating peanut butter, then eating a peanut-free meal, reduced the allergen in saliva to undetectable levels.
It’s important to note that these findings are specific to peanut butter, and may not apply to other food allergens or peanut in another form.
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This research shows us that the safest approach is usually for the partner to avoid the allergen, too. For peanut butter, we have learned that waiting several hours before kissing, and then eating a peanut-free meal, significantly reduces the chance of a reaction.
Finally, it’s important as a teenager to be open about your food allergy early on with your partner. You will often be pleasantly surprised on how supportive he or she will be once fully understanding the potential severity of your allergy.
Dr. Sharma is an allergist, clinical researcher and associate professor of pediatrics. He is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Health System in Washington D.C. and Director of the Food Allergy Program. He co-authors “The Food Allergy Experts” column in Allergic Living e-magazine. Questions submitted will be considered for answer in the magazine.Submit a Question View all posts by this medical expert.