How to Travel with Food Allergies
I have a kid who is allergic to nuts. I found out a few minutes after the poor guy helped himself to a tiny morsel. Let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Luckily, the crisis was soon averted thanks to a nearby clinic not two miles away from home. Before long, my son was diagnosed with egg allergy.
Needless to say, my family had to make big adjustments, especially on which meals are served on the family table.
Things are even more difficult when we’re traveling. Our family loves to travel, so there’s always the constant fear that my son’s allergy would act up again every time we dine out.
Here’s the thing: Once you find out you’re allergic to something, it’s hard to shake the nagging fear that you might have eat the wrong stuff.
That fear becomes even more pronounced when the food you’re getting served wasn’t prepared in your own kitchen.
And that’s not even the scariest part. The scariest part is seeing your kid exhibiting the warning signs while you and your family are in the middle of nowhere.
Much like every parent with a child afflicted with food allergy, I was a rolling ball of nerves. It was terrible.
So I did the most sensible thing: I went on Google — and voila! I stumbled upon this excellent infographic from FAACT providing worried parents like me a comprehensive checklist on how to travel safely with food allergies
The infographic is conveniently divided into four sections: Traveling, Restaurants, Hotels, and Hosts.
Let’s discuss each section in great detail.
Traveling: Allergy Medicine
- Check the expiration date of epinephrine auto-injectors. Used widely as a first-aid and emergency treatment for allergic reactions, EpiPens have been proven effective in preventing fatalities from anaphylactic shock. Before going on a trip with your family, make sure that the expiration date is at least more than 6 months away. Carrying at least two epinephrine auto-injectors during your trip should give you the peace of mind from knowing that any crisis can be averted anytime.
- Have extra medication on hand. It’s absolutely crucial that everyone in the family has immediate access to extra medication in case an allergic reaction occurs. Each medication has to be carried in original containers with prescription labels attached to them. If possible, include a note from your doctor providing easy instructions on how the medication can be administered.
- Print and pack Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. No matter how far from home you and your family needs to go, it’s imperative that you bring numerous copies of your Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan for the trip. This plan outlines recommended treatments in case of an allergic reaction and comes with emergency contact information. It’s important that the plan is signed by your physician to ensure all grounds are covered.
- Fill out and print chef card. A “chef card” outlines the foods that a person with allergy needs to avoid. By presenting this card to the chef or manager for review every time your family eats out, you’re ensuring that all precautions are taken during the preparation of the meals. You can use this chef card template from SafeFARE to list all allergens that must be avoided.
Traveling: extra precautions
- Pack safe snacks or meals. You never know when some extra food will come in handy when you’re out and about. To be safe, make sure that you pack your own allergen-free snacks and meals during your travels.
- Bring wipes for surfaces and hands. Cleaning is a crucial strategy in preventing exposure to allergens so make sure that you take hand wipes and antibacterial soap/lotion with you during family trips. Before eating, it’s important that the hands of each family member are clean. Contacting your travel provider to ask for pre-boarding accommodations is a great strategy to ensure that you are given sufficient time to wipe down seats, armrests, and seatbelts. Commercial planes, after all, are notorious for harboring allergens.
- Be sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. Take the time to ensure that everyone in your party is aware of emergency procedures, including where medications are stored, how to contact emergency services, and how these services can be reached.
Restaurants: food allergy diet
- Research dining options along your route. Thanks to the internet and GPS communications, you can easily check on the menus of food establishments that are easily accessible along your route. You can call specialty stores to inquire which food products they are selling as well.
- Call restaurants ahead and ask to speak to a manager or chef about their policies for managing food allergies. If you’re having difficulties in choosing a location, FAACT’s “Dining Out” web page provides a list of food establishments that are well-versed and educated on how to accommodate customers with food allergies.
- Find accommodations with a microwave and refrigerator. A person with food allergy needs to have easy access to safe foods all the time when traveling.
- Perform a visual inspection of your room upon arrival for loose food or residue. Cleaning a hotel room isn’t exactly a high-paying job so it’s not entirely unusual to find loose food or residue even inside luxurious hotel rooms. Just to be on the safe side, do an inspection yourself as soon as you enter the hotel room you’ve paid for.
- Determine where the nearest emergency department is in case a reaction occurs. Families with a food allergic child should always be prepared for the unexpected and as such should be able to respond quickly with the right contact information in case of an allergic reaction.
- Have a conversation with your hosts in advance to ensure they understand your food allergy safety rules. When it comes to any person who may serve or prepare your food, the same rules still apply. You have to notify in advance, discuss safe food options (don’t forget the “chef card”), and make sure that everyone is aware of emergency procedures.
It bears mentioning that the checklist above is only presented by recommendation and still needs to be verified and approved by the physician before proceeding with any travel plans with your family.