Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies
Food allergies affect more than 50 million Americans. There is no cure for a food allergy, so your best bet is to avoid the allergen altogether, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay home and prepare your own food all the time.
Although food allergies can be quite serious, you can still enjoy family vacations, business trips, and exotic adventures — as long as you take a few precautions.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy occurs when your body treats a food substance as an invader and attacks it. This attack can trigger a variety of common symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including vomiting, hives, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
The most common food allergens include:
- Tree nuts
In the most severe cases, an allergic response can result in anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that can make it difficult to breathe and send your body into shock.
How to travel safely with food allergies
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, families with allergies travel less and avoid long trips out of the country for fear of having an allergic reaction and needing medical care in a foreign place. But you don’t have to restrict your school breaks and work vacations to staycations. You can travel anywhere you want for as long as you want, as long as you plan ahead.
Dr. Richard Herrscher at AIR Care: Allergy, Immunology, and Respiratory Care offers these eight tips to help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:
1. Locate medical facilities where you’ll be staying
Doing some research and planning before your trip will pay off while you’re away. Once you have your itinerary in hand, ask your hotel clerk or research the medical facility nearest to your lodging, just in case.
2. Bring safe food with you on the plane, train, or automobile
Make sure you have enough safe snacks and meals, and then some, for you and your family while getting to your destination.
3. Carry medication with you
Make sure you have all necessary medications — and an epinephrine injection, if necessary — and keep them in your carry-on. Make sure you also have an ample supply; you never know if your trip will be extended for some unforeseen reason.
4. Communicate with your hosts
If you’re staying with friends, communicate your or your family’s food allergies before arriving so they can stock up on allergen-free foods and prepare foods appropriately. If you’re staying at a hotel, communicate with the hotel about your allergies and find out about the allergy-free food options they offer.
5. Translate your allergies
If you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the language, carry a card with you that you can hand to waiters which lists ingredients you need to avoid, along with a brief explanation.
6. Research restaurants beforehand
If you know any of the restaurants you’re planning on visiting, check out their menus online before you go, so you have an idea of what to order and what to ask the waiter. Also, the more notice you give the restaurant, the more likely they’ll be able to accommodate your needs.
7. Let your doctor know where you’re going
Speak to your doctor before your trip to get advice and let them know of your plans. Confirm that they can send in a prescription while you’re away if needed.
8. Communicate with your travel companions
The more people who know about your allergies, the safer you’ll be. Share your care plan and the location of your medications or epi-pen with your travel buddy, so they can also be on the lookout for allergens — and help you if you have a bad reaction.
For more advice on traveling with food allergies, call Dr. Herrscher at AIR Care in Plano, Texas, or book an appointment online.