Your Partner or Your Pet? Loving Someone With Allergies

What can you do if you love cats but your boyfriend is allergic?  Do you have to give up your peanut butter habit because kissing your partner can make him sick?  Couples are often confronted with these types of questions when one partner has allergies and the other doesn't.

The good news is: With clear communication, some well-laid plans, and a bit of compromise, you may not have to choose between your partner and your pet (or your peanut butter).  

Accommodating Food Allergies

  • Since food allergies can be life threatening Morris Nejat, MD, of New York Allergy & Sinus Centers, says to make sure all foods in your home are well labeled to minimize the risk of inadvertent exposure.
  • When it's your turn to cook, check the ingredient list on every label of every packaged or pre-prepared food you use, to make sure it doesn't contain an allergen.
  • If you sometimes prepare allergen-containing food at home when your partner's not there, make sure you thoroughly wash every pot, pan, plate and utensil that touched the food. Cross-contamination is a major concern for people with significant food allergies, the expert points out.
  • When you dine at a restaurant, Nejat suggests speaking directly to the chef about your food allergy concerns and show the kitchen staff your epinephrine pen so they take you seriously.
  • If you eat an allergen-containing food while dining without your partner, be sure to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth very well. That allergen can stay in your saliva for some time and be passed on to your partner with a single smooch.
  • Remember that many cream, lotions, and body oils contain nut extracts, so be sure to check the ingredients labels on all cosmetics and beauty and hygiene products before using them.

To help yourself and your partner stay up-to-date on the latest food allergy news and developments, Nejat recommends joining the Food Allergy Network.

Accommodating Pet Allergies

  • Don't feel offended by the fact that your partner can't get close to your pet. Even pets that are supposedly "hypo-allergenic" can create issues for people who are highly allergic.
  • If your pet sheds, regularly brush its coat outdoors, away from your home.
  • Bathe your pet often.
  • Skip the wall-to-wall carpeting; instead, maintain hardwood floors and an occasional throw rug that is easy to clean on a regular basis.
  • Vacuum, sweep and dust your home frequently.
  • Wash your pet's bedding, blankets, clothing and toys often.
  • Keep at least one room—perhaps the bedroom—pet-free.
  • Use air cleaners with HEPA filters in all rooms, including the pet-free room.

If avoiding the animal isn't enough, Nejat suggests having your partner see an allergist about the possibility of hypo-sensitization to your pet.

Morris Nejat, MD, reviewed this article.