One 2006 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that about 60 percent of teenagers with severe allergies, such as one to peanuts, reported "always" carrying lifesaving devices such as EpiPens. But "always"' varied depending on where these teens were going and what they were doing. For example, while 94 percent said they carried EpiPens while traveling, only 61 percent took them to school dances. Fifty-four percent of the study participants chose not to carry EpiPens while wearing tight clothing.
But this is a dangerous way to approach having an allergy, said Woods. Even if a reaction seems mild at the start, it can become more severe 20 to 30 minutes later.
And teenagers in high school are most likely to take those risks.
"It's the age when most people do the greatest number of stupid things," Wood said.
And for the 12 million Americans who have allergies, about 3 million of whom are children, taking an unnecessary risk, even if it's around friends or a crush, may not be worth it.
"If you're close enough to somebody … you're close enough to talk about the need to be careful and say, 'I'm worried about what could happen to me if you've been eating peanuts,'" Provost said.
But having food allergies might make it easier to pan for gold in a murky dating pool.
"It makes it easier to know when a boy is really into you," said Danielle Roberge, 19, who is allergic to milk products. "I've had a guy ask me before if he could get my food allergy as an STD." The two did not date.
On the other hand, Roberge described a moment when she and a boy were kissing and she began to get a bit red in the face because her lips were chapped.
"He made me go wash my face and brush my teeth," Roberge said. "I asked him, 'Did you brush your teeth?' and he said, 'Yes, of course.'"
Unfortunately, Richards never got to kiss the boy that Sunday on her porch because he had eaten a Twix candy bar, an "automatic no-no," she said, because the candy bar contains nuts. But eventually, Richards said her boyfriend became so conscientious that he would proudly volunteer that he hadn't eaten nuts that day so could give her a kiss.
"I'd say, 'Good job!'" Richards said. "It became like a reward."