Travelling with Food Allergies

In our household, we are on full holiday countdown. My son can’t decide if he’s more excited about going on the aeroplane or the Paw Patrol pool inflatable, my husband and I are dreamily visualising our evenings of cool rose sundowners and sleeping children (!) and my baby is none the wiser but already disappointingly adept at pulling her sunhat off.

As the sole medic in a group of families travelling together, I feel a responsibility to be equipped for all circumstances and so whilst I haven’t yet packed so much as a t-shirt for myself, our travel first aid kit is ready to go. One of the children in our group has food allergies so I’m also learning first-hand how useful my own travel advice in allergy clinic is! Unfamiliar foods, languages and even local experience of food allergy all add to worry for families where a family member has a food allergy and before that there’s a journey to get through. Like most things, preparation is key and here are a few tips to hopefully make life easier:

  1. Discuss travel plans with your allergy clinic before you travel, depending on where you’re going and your access to medical treatment, your management plan may be adjusted. Make sure medications are in date and in plentiful supply.

  2. Contact airlines/hotels in writing before you travel. Tell your cabin crew as you board about your allergy and show them your management plan. Whilst most airlines won’t guarantee a nut free flight, they will often be helpful in other ways such as providing free from meals (check airline websites regarding production and traces), allowing you to board early to clean down the tray tables and seat and by making announcements on the plane to request other passengers to not consume certain foods e.g. nuts on the flight.

  3. Carry your emergency medications with you at all times – your doctor can download and sign a travel letter for you which you can present at security. Ensure that you have antihistamines, adrenaline, inhalers in your hand luggage along with your management plan. If you have them you hopefully won’t need them!

  4. Take plenty of safe snacks and food for the flight (although remember you may need to leave perishables on the plane at the other end depending on your destination)

  5. If you’re travelling somewhere that you’re unfamiliar with the language, print out some translation cards to use in an emergency and also to use in restaurants ( Allergy UK have these available on their website

  6. Know how to summon help if you need it – 112 is the international number

  7. Avoid risky situations – buffets, freshly scooped ice cream, bakery goods for example all have the potential for cross contamination .

Websites such as The Anaphylaxis Campaign and Allergy UK have a wealth of further information. The British Association of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) has travel templates for your doctor to download. Happy holidays!

Dr Carolyn

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