Resources for College Students
For young adults heading off to college, our College Network offers a searchable database with information about various campus food allergy management policies. It also provides contact information for college representatives and students who are available to help prospective students with food allergies make a decision about which college to attend.
Choosing a School
Attending a school with a supportive food allergy policy and Resident Life staff can make all the difference in ensuring a safe and fulfilling college experience. Before deciding on a college, students should be sure to visit the school, ask questions of the staff and learn how each college helps students to manage their food allergies. Here are some things to consider when choosing which school to attend:
- Make sure the dining facilities are safe by going on a tour and asking the food service director how you can verify the ingredients of each meal and exchange an unsafe entrée for one you can eat.
- Some schools permit you to bring or rent a MicroFridge (a combination refrigerator and microwave), which allows you the option of preparing foods in your room. Find out if the top three schools you are considering have this option.
- Research your housing options to see if you can choose a supportive friend to be your roommate or if you can live in a single room, which can help create a safe and allergen-free living environment.
Moving away from home can be a challenge for teens with food allergies. Here are a few helpful tips for students attending college (more can be found in the FAQ section of the College Network) :
- Orient your roommates, hall mates, and Resident Advisor by distributing your Food Allergy Action Plan to all dorm staff members, and place a copy in your dorm room and in your Resident Advisor's room.
- Be sure to talk to your roommates about your food allergy, how they can help you stay safe, and what to do in an emergency.
- Assemble emergency medical kits with medications you use to treat a reaction and a copy of your Food Allergy Action Plan signed by your doctor.
- Many schools have fast food outlets on campus; be sure to check out the ingredient lists.
Alcohol and Epinephrine: Do They Mix?
Most students come to be of legal drinking age while attending college, and we are often asked about the effects that alcohol might have when combined with epinephrine. According to Dr. Clifton T. Furukawa, an allergist and clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, School of Medicine, Seattle, W.A., and a member of FARE’s Medical Advisory Board, alcohol may increase the rate at which a food allergen is absorbed, therefore resulting in a quicker onset of symptoms. He also explained a few additional risks for college students to consider.
“If a person has had alcoholic drinks and then needs epinephrine, the epinephrine will still be effective. However, alcohol use does present a risk to food-allergic individuals. When alcohol is consumed, judgment, timing, and muscle coordination are adversely affected. Thus, people may take chances they should not, may misjudge what is occurring, and may allow food contamination to occur just by mishandling. Additionally, their ability to recognize a reaction, give themselves medications, and summon help may be affected.
“Further, and especially for college-age, food-allergic individuals, foods to be avoided may actually intentionally be given as a ‘prank’ or ‘joke.’ Not only is your judgment impaired, but the judgment and behavior of others are affected by alcohol.”
Check out this video, "Food Allergies and Dating," from Anaphylaxis Canada.
The Kissing Study
Your food allergy may seem like an uncomfortable topic to bring up, but it's definitely much more comfortable to talk about it than to have a reaction. Be upfront with people you are interested in. If they care about you, they will understand and want to learn about how they can help keep you safe.
A study was published in 2006 to understand how long peanut allergen stays in the saliva after a person eats. The results of the study gave the scientists confidence that the allergen would become undetectable for the majority of people several hours after they had eaten peanuts or peanut products. The scientists advised people to brush their teeth as well as wait at least a few hours before kissing someone with a peanut allergy. Many teens and young adults tell us that their significant others avoid the allergy-causing food on days when they will be hanging out together. Others say their boyfriends or girlfriends have cut the allergen out of their diets entirely. Talk to your doctor and your date about what makes the most sense for your situation.
We will keep updating this section of our site with new resources on an ongoing basis. Do you have suggestions about additional resources you’d like to see us add to the site? Please use the Contact Us form to tell us your suggestions.