Follow these top tips to stay safe with anaphylaxis on the road (Dreamstime)
Article 06 September

Travel tips for food allergy sufferers

Allergic reactions and special dietary requirements shouldn't stop or hinder you from travelling the world. Take a look at these top tips to stay safe on the road

Anaphylaxis: air travel checklist

Significant care and planning are critical to managing a potentially life threatening condition while away from home. To minimise the risks and expand your comfort zone, there are different considerations you need to think about when travelling by air with anaphylaxis.

Some airlines and flight crews are more aware of food allergies and may accommodate your special requests while others may not. Keep in mind that airlines will not guarantee a “nut-free” flight and cannot prohibit other passengers from carrying peanuts or tree nuts onto your flight. However, some carriers and crews may refrain from serving the allergen on board your specific flight due to the severity of your condition.

Although the following checklist may seem a bit overwhelming with extensive precautions, thoroughness is a critical factor to ensuring safe travel journeys with severe food allergies.

1. Review the airline's in-flight food options, emergency protocol and allergy policy prior to booking your flight.

2. Call customer service and notify the representative and/or supervisor about the severity of your allergies.

3. Choose and book your airline based on your health and travel priorities.

4. Ideally, book the first non-stop flight of the day so that the plane has been cleaned from previous passengers.

5. Reserve your seating assignment with as few passengers in proximity to your seat as possible.

6. Re-confirm your allergen concerns directly with the airline a minimum of one day prior to departure.

7. Pack snacks equivalent to at least one travel meal or enough food to get you to your destination.

8. For security purposes, ensure all prescribed, non-expired medications that you are bringing on the plane include the respective passenger’s name on the original labels.

9. Carry your medications, including several epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPen® or TwinJect™, and any other related medicines.

10. Bring a doctor’s note explaining the requirement to carry your medications on board.

11. Carry any other important medical records and wear a medical identification bracelet.

12. Notify airline staff at check-in and at the gate of the severity of your condition.

13. Request pre-boarding to wipe down and sterilize the seats, arm rests, tray tables, seat belt, windows, surfaces and surrounding areas.

14. Keep your medications and snacks with you at all times – do not store in the overhead bin.

15. Ask flight attendants to announce prior to take-off that there is a person on board with life threatening food allergies and to refrain from eating the allergen during the flight.

16. Carry extra snacks and offer them to other passengers in exchange for not consuming your allergen of concern or offer to buy them a different snack on board.

17. Bring your own pillow and blanket to avoid potential residual food particles from allergens.

18. Provide feedback to the flight crew about your experience as appropriate.

The bottom line is always:

• Be prepared with medication, documentation, snacks, plans and back-up plans.

• Communicate the severity of your anaphylaxis to each and every airline personnel.

International travel tips with anaphylaxis

When venturing overseas, following these travel guidelines will help to make your journey more enjoyable and increase your comfort level while staying in both English and foreign-language speaking destinations.

1. Research on-line global databases and resources about eating out and travelling overseas.

2. Contact the local food allergy associations for suggestions on eating gluten and allergen-free in that specific country.

3. Understand country specific regulations regarding standards on allowable products packed in carry-on luggage.

4. Review food product labelling regulations for your destination, which may differ from your home country.

5. Determine the availability of safe gluten and allergen free snacks for future purchase during your travels.

For those visiting foreign-speaking countries, it is also important to communicate your needs in the native language.

1. Ensure any medical documentation that may be needed has been translated into the language of each country included in your travels.

2. Carry pocket-size gluten and allergen-free translation cards which identify your special dietary requirements by allergen, key ingredients and critical food preparation techniques.

3. Pack a foreign language phrase guide such as the Multi-Lingual Phrase Passport for additional phrases including common ingredients, dining requests, breakfast meals, health considerations and products.

These top travel food safety tips have been taken from Kim Koeller and Robert La France's book Let's Eat Out with Celiac/Coeliac and Food Allergies – an award-winning and timeless reference for special diets, perfect for those on the road.