If you have a severe food allergy, things that can appear simple, like taking a holiday to a foreign country, can become difficult relatively quickly. Concerns pop up, like “what if I can’t read the menu and I accidentally order something I am allergic to” or “What if I start to have an allergic reaction—will I know how to get the proper medical attention in enough time?”
Worrying about these things is a natural and responsible reaction to the possibility of needing medical attention. But with a little preparation, travelling will become much easier and you will feel more confident in your ability to get the help you need, if you end up needing it. Food allergies should not be a barrier to seeing the world.
If you are travelling to a country where you do not speak their language, the smartest thing you can do is to prepare a laminated card explaining your allergy in the local language. There are websites that specifically fill this need, like SelectWisely and BrokerFish, where you can be confident that the translation is correct, concise and includes a call to action. Other important things to know before you leave are things you may need in an emergency like how to call an ambulance, how to use local payphones and how to let someone know you need medical attention NOW.
Before you leave you should also visit your doctor to discuss a plan of action should you need medical attention as well as receive any prescriptions for medications that could help alleviate the worst symptoms of an allergic reaction. Having a doctor’s note will also usually allow you to keep your emergency medication with you on board instead of having to stash it in checked luggage below.
No matter what your mode of transportation may be, there are things than you can do to be precautious of potential allergy triggers. While flight attendants cannot control what kind of food is brought on the plane, if you alert them of your allergy, oftentimes they can ensure that those around you are aware of the situation and remove any potential triggers before take-off.
Also, be sure to pack “safe” snacks where you know the ingredients and know that you enjoy it. This way you will never be without nourishment if you need it. Everywhere you go, talking to those in charge about your allergy is important—you will have someone in a position of power looking out for you and helping you avoid a medical event.
Food allergies are becoming increasingly common, and as a result there are more and more resources and accommodations that are aware of the restrictions. They are able to adapt to these requirements and can offer information about hotels and more that are geared up for visitors with severe allergies. One such place is Allergy Friendly Hotels where they can give you the run-down of allergy-friendly places to stay around the world.
Beyond this, knowing your symptoms and speaking up when you are unsure whether or not there will be a trigger in a menu item is important. For example, food allergies are relatively rare in Asia and so food labelling and eating out can be particularly tricky there. There are also local differences in how foods are used — for example, in Spain, ground almonds are commonly used in place of flour in cakes.
If this is the case, home food preparation can become your alternative to eating out. You can pick and choose which new and local ingredients to cook with, all the while being confident that you won’t accidentally ingest something wrong. Embrace your allergy, learn as much as you can about it, and then confidently move forward.
If you have allergies, you know that ignoring the allergy could lead to a bad reaction and put yourself into a serious (and vacation-wrecking) danger. Take the proper precautions, plan ahead and be confident in your emergency plan so you can put the allergy concerns in the backseat and fully enjoy your holiday. Pick medical travel insurance from Cover-More Australia and relax, knowing you have access to their emergency assistance experts for the duration of your trip.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Gigglesyee