We’ve travelled before as a food allergy family, but it’s been a while. And truthfully, we were much less educated on the dangers and risks involved with food allergies back then. So it’s fair to say that our recent trip to Miami was our first “real” trip as food allergy parents.
We had a wonderful time, but being away from home and out of our comfort zone definitely brought the stress to another level. We were properly prepared for our flights, and because our two allergy kids are picky eaters, we made most of their meals in our hotel room.
Still, it felt as though there were dangers all around us. The grandmother at the park who packed peanut butter sandwiches for her grandchildren, the guests at the pool eating “who knows what” just a few feet from where we were sitting, the bar in the lobby that served peanuts…even the pizza shop we frequented. They claimed to be nut-free…could we really trust them? Not everyone understands what nut-free means.
Our stress rose to a whole new level the morning that our daughter told us her tongue was itchy and her throat hurt. OMG, was she having an allergic reaction? We couldn’t point to any one thing that could have caused a reaction, but we still got our epipens ready, our food allergist on the phone and monitored her closely. It was hours until we could breathe a sigh of relief.
Because food allergies and special dietary needs are becoming more and more prevalent in our society, I believe that in the near future we will become a market force that will be paid attention and catered to—and that we will have an easier time in our daily lives and when traveling as time goes on.
In the meantime, here are some quick tips we have learned over time for those who are planning a vacation with food allergy children:
- Prepare for the flights. Learn your airline’s policies towards food allergies. How should you notify them? Will they serve an alternative snack to nuts? Will they let you pre-board to sanitize your space? What are they willing to announce to the others on the plane? I’ve found Lianne Mandelbaum’s site The No Nut Traveler to be a wealth of information and resources to those who will be flying with food allergy children.
- Prepare for your destination. Don’t be a deer in headlights when you land. Doing your due-diligence ahead of time will make for a much smoother vacation.
- Is there an option of an allergy-friendly hotel (think in-room filtration system, hypoallergenic bedding, etc.)?
- Which restaurants will accommodate your specific food allergy needs? Call ahead and quiz them.
- Identify the local attractions that will leave you smiling rather than stressed.
- Modify your Emergency Action Plan. Of course you’ll pack your Epi Pens and have your doctor’s number on speed dial. But is there a local food allergist if you need one? Which local hospital is the best one for allergic reactions?
- Be Ready to Communicate. If you are travelling out of the country, prepare a list of important words in that area’s language so that you can effectively communicate your child’s needs—especially when there’s an emergency. Know the words for the foods your child is allergic to, and any common variations. (For example, not only “peanuts” but “peanut butter.”)
- Communicate with Your Kids. Depending on the age of your child, they may or may not think through the different types of situations they may be in. Things they usually assume are safe may not be safe on the trip. Talk to them at their level to let them know what to anticipate.
Have you travelled with food allergy children?
What helpful tips can you share for those who are planning a vacation with food allergy children? What are your favorite blogs or websites that help?