Zagat Allergy Guide Missing Something: Food Allergies!

Sloane Miller Health Guide
  • When I first saw the ads for Out and About with Allergies by Zagat, I was really excited. The Zagat guide is going to take on allergies and food?! Rock on!


    But it wasn't exactly as I had dreamed, at least not yet.


    In a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that creates the allergy medication Veramyst, Zagat has created a very limited "guide book" for 20 U.S. cities, highlighting attractions, restaurants, and nightlife within those cities when one has allergies.


    OK?! Possibly great, right?


    I went to the website and clicked on the receive-your-free-copy. In the mail, I got a neat, trim booklet. I immediately turned to New York City to see what goodies they had come up with.

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    My eyes fell upon the first NYC listing: The Botanical Gardens.


    Hmmm, very beautiful to be sure, but disastrous if upon visiting the Northeast you realize something is blooming that is tickling your throat, killing your eyes and making your nose drip.


    As it turns out, ALL the "attractions" highlighted in each city consists of some form of formal outdoor gardens and/or park.  At this time of year, especially, being outdoors surrounded by trees, grass and flowers is not recommended for people with seasonal allergies.


    The restaurants they chose I'd never heard of (they picked restaurants in just three out of five boroughs) and couldn't determine why they would be appropriate for an allergy sufferer? Do these places have food allergy-friendly chefs? Are there menus that can be easily adjusted for the food allergic? Are these cuisines safer for food allergic diners and their children? Nope, nope, and nope. What an opportunity Zagat and GSK missed there.


    Nightlife? Since most cities are smoke-free these days, nightlife has gotten much easier for those of us with allergic asthma or whose asthma is triggered by smoke. But the NYC spots they chose wouldn't be my pick. Dance clubs? Why not places that highlight the great cultural exchanges that abound on practically every corner in every borough?


    It made me wonder who exactly their target market was? With so many children with environmental allergies (50 million Americans total) and food allergies (an estimated 4 to 8 percent of children have food allergies versus 2 percent of adults), this didn't seem like a family guide, which would have been brilliant. It wasn't a young adult guide either as the restaurants were expensive.  So who exactly is the guide supposed to be for?


    The Vermyst literature says, "Don't let seasonal outdoor allergy symptoms hold you back." And I completely agree!  And I get that they are saying when you use Veramyst you should be able to enjoy more outdoor activities.  But this booklet felt like an empty exercise in aiding an allergic consumer; someone without allergies must have thought it up.


    The most positive thing I can say about this booklet is that it's evidence that allergies are beginning to get some much needed attention. The question of how do allergy sufferers travel and negotiate spaces away from their home base is an important one and hopefully this booklet will not be the last attempt to get some needed information out that you should go out and travel and experience life and not let allergies hold you back.

Published On: June 11, 2008