DISCLAIMER: Please note that this post is in no means intended as medical advice. You should talk to your doctor and allergist about what the right path is for you and your allergies.
When I got my first boyfriend at the age of 16, the story of Christina Desforges‘s death from an anaphylactic reaction caused by kissing her boyfriend who had eaten peanuts was big news. It was only later that the autopsy showed she died due to an asthma attack and not anaphylaxis.
Not only was I nervous about my first kiss (I’m a late bloomer), I was now worried it could also be my first and last. Lucky for me, I had one of those nosey girlfriends who broke any tension by bringing it up because she had heard about Christina Desforges’s story. We were eating lunch, and she schooled us on how we need to be careful. Thanks to her we were able to talk about my allergies and intimacy, and thanks to her we listened. Let’s be honest, you don’t want to hear these things from mom.
Now as a married woman we have a system worked out that keeps me safe and has become second nature to us both. My husband can eat nuts or sesame or soy, he just has to let me know, and we are doubly aware of glasses and toothbrushes that day. We had to talk intimacy pretty quickly since our first date ended in the hospital, not because of kissing thank goodness!
When is it safe to kiss someone who ate my allergen?
Trying to navigate what a safe enough time between partner’s PB&J and a smooch is still pretty unclear. This year at the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference, Dr Dave Stukus discussed the different studies looking at that safe zone. The best solution he presented is also one I read about a few years ago, and we implement at home.
Here is what he presented:
→ 87% of people had undetectable levels of peanut protein (Ara h1) in their saliva after an hour of eating a peanut butter meal.
→ 100% had undetectable levels three hours later following a subsequent peanut-free lunch.
→ Immediate brushing, prolonged rinsing, and chewing gum were not effective.*
→ Best time to kiss after your partner ate a peanut meal: wait several hours and after they have eaten a peanut-free meal.
NOTE: This did not evaluate transmission to another person, reactions, or other types of food.
My kissing with food allergies rule
As you can see the data was only for peanut. I also have an anaphylactic allergy to sesame, so we take further precautions. What we do is wait at least 3 hours, and my hubby has eaten an allergen-free meal. The reason I am so specific about this is that I had a reaction from sharing the same water bottle as my mother after she ate a candy bar containing tree nuts (we mixed up water bottles). So I have had a contact reaction in the past.
One more thing that Dr Stukus emphasised during his talk is that it also depends on your threshold to a particular allergen. There are multiple factors at play, so you need to decide what works best for you and I suggest talking to your allergist.
What about having sex after your partner has eaten an allergen?
First off this should only be something you are concerned about if you are practicing safe sex or trying to get pregnant. Hey teens! I’m looking at you and saying wear a rubber.
If you are having unprotected sex, there is no safe answer for you regarding the transmission of allergens. There was one case where a woman who has a brazil nut allergy reacted (hives & difficulty breathing) to her partner’s semen after he ate brazil nuts. They did a skin prick test with his semen after he ate brazil nuts and confirmed significant reactivity, a sample before nut consumption was negative. I’ll let you make your conclusion. **
If you want more information about condoms and birth control, the ladies over at Everyday Allergen-Free have a great post about it.
There’s no need to worry
After all this information, it can be easy to develop a fear of intimacy. It shouldn’t be because, and I’m going to get super old fashion here, if you are getting physical you have to be open with your partner, trust that partner, and they should be worth it! Talking about these things is vital, and really at the end of the day, it weeds out the baddies. I’m not from the school of Tinder and am no authority on dating, but I see allergies as a gift. Being open and able to talk about things is one of the pillars of a good relationship, and that starts with your allergies.
P.S. I don’t think it is ok to ask your partner to refrain from your allergens outright. You need to find a level and system that works for you – remember relationships are about compromise and being open!
*Moloney JM; Capman MD, Sicherer SH. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Sep: 118(3) 719-24.
**J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2007: Vol 17(3): 189-191