The idea for AllerNotes grew out of a personal incident that occurred in a well-known restaurant in suburban New York. Our party consisted of 3 adults, a 13-year-old, and a 15-year-old with an extreme allergy to nuts. This allergy was explained to the waitress in detail, yet when the food was brought to the table, the 15-year-old’s dish had nuts sprinkled across the top. The waitress was not foolish, nor had she blatantly ignored what we had said. She had simply become too busy to make sure the kitchen followed through on what we had told her. The waitress’s lack of experience with severe food allergies meant she didn’t realize how important it was that she heed and pass on the warning that we gave.
We told this story to friends, and learned that they had experienced very similar situations, sometimes resulting in a rush to the emergency room for immediate treatment. Just as in our case, this occurred after the allergy issue had been fully explained to the server. We felt the need for something more. The idea of AllerNotes was born!
AllerNotes are repositionable notes designed to be handed to your server as you explain your particular food allergy. They are a great reminder to the server of the severity of the food allergy, designed to reinforce your communication with the waitstaff and, in turn the waitstaff’s communication of your allergy issue to the kitchen staff. AllerNotes are not a substitute for a verbal explanation, but are meant to augment and emphasize what you would normally tell your server. AllerNotes are available preprinted with certain allergies or blank for you to fill in as needed. The “blank” AllerNotes are not confined to food allergies... they have a line at the bottom for writing in the type of allergy being addressed. They work for all types of allergies beyond food issues, such as penicillin, latex and the like, and can be handed to a nurse, a child’s day care worker or anyone else.
The first restaurant test of AllerNotes yielded an interesting result. The act of handing the AllerNote to the waiter seemed to have a ‘magic’ effect. He focused intently on what was handed to him along with our explanation of the allergy. When the meal came out allergen-safe, we knew the point had made it across. The waiter had recognized his large responsibility, and made sure the kitchen knew they had one too. At the end of the meal, we found ‘position No. 1 very allergic to nuts’ written on the check.
In our general experience, we have found the notes to be well received by both restaurant staff as well as fellow diners. They are not a “big thing” at the table; our friends and guests want to see what they are. Inevitably someone will comment that it’s surprising they haven’t seen something like that before. Frankly, we’re just as surprised.
"We hope you save a life."
- Rutgers University's "Ask Before You Eat" program
AllerNote Labels are an extension of AllerNotes. These “lunch box labels” peel and stick to nearly any surface, and are semi-permanent. They mirror the AllerNotes in that there are preprinted labels for each of the basic food types that can trigger an allergic reaction and there’s also the “generic” label, that warns of any allergy with a blank space for you to fill in as needed.
The food allergy labels can go many places, such as the front of a composition notebook, to the top of a laptop, thermos, glass or tumbler, or anywhere that they will be seen when food can present a problem. Attaching an AllerNote Label to a child’s school lunchbox can be a sigh of relief for a parent: a child with a nut allergy sitting in a school cafeteria may be offered a Baby Ruth by a well-meaning child at the same table. Shrimp salad or peanut butter sandwiches may be the day’s special. Such labels can draw attention to the problem. The labels certainly reach out to inform.
Generic "Write On" AllerNote Labels, just like generic AllerNotes, can be used to alert others of allergies other than food. They can be affixed to medical records and charts as an easy way to communicate allergic reactions to penicillin, Latex or other drugs or substances. Offering an AllerNote Label (or a generic AllerNote) in a doctor’s office or hospital when giving a medical history serves to highlight a possible problem - and helps to avoid it!
AllerNote Reminder Labels are another extension of AllerNotes. Have you ever left the house without the epinephrine pen , a vital auto injection device for those with severe allergic reactions? Our AllerNote Reminder Labels clearly remind you to “BRING THE PEN” when placed at eye level on the inside of the front or back door, on the refrigerator, or perhaps on the dashboard of the car. We even made up a “BRING THE ALLERNOTES” label. After a couple of AllerNote handouts, you simply won’t want to leave them behind.
AllerNotes are a good thing. They’re intended to help bring better awareness to food allergies, and we think they do. We intend to continually make donations to allergy and asthma organizations that support bringing the informational problem before the public. One such program is the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services/Rutgers University’s “Ask Before You Eat” program . We asked if we could use their slogan in connection with AllerNotes. Their response was “We hope you save a life.” We hope so too. If you use AllerNotes and think them worthwhile, tell someone else who has an allergy concern about them. They may be glad you did.
For more information concerning the "Ask Before you Eat" program, please visit www.foodallergy.rutgers.edu
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