What is the Thai word for peanut? Can I fly with my child’s meds? How do I minimize the risk of an allergic reaction while on a flight? These are just some of the daunting questions that parents may face when traveling with a child who has food allergies.
Traveling is a lifestyle for Cyndi Doors and her husband, who are based in LA and own a house on Ibiza/Spain, which the family visits several times a year. When their son Xavi Phoenix was born they had no qualms about travelling with him and are raising him to be a well-travelled global citizen. At 12 months’ old Xavi Phoenix was diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy- since then flying comes with loads of new challenges.
Cyndi explains “Peanuts are traditionally served on flights and people like to bring their own peanut snacks on flights too. What many people don’t realize about a peanut allergy is that you can have a severe reaction from touching peanut residue (for instance residue left on the food tray or hand rest from a previous passenger who ate peanuts) or simply from inhaling peanut protein from a nearby passenger eating peanuts. Being in an enclosed space with recirculated air up in the sky can be terrifying for parents of allergic children”.
Cyndi and other Bebe Voyage members embarking on global travel with children suffering from allergies agree – Don’t let a food allergy stop you from exploring the world with your child(ren)!
Here are 10 tips for families traveling with children suffering from food allergies:
#1 Plan ahead
Planning ahead is key and embrace the attitude – apply common sense, be vigilant and careful but not fearful!
# 2 Discuss travel plans with your family doctor
Getting through security with medicines is much easier if you have them in a sturdy zippered pouch, the medication is in its original packaging, along with a copy of the food allergy treatment plan signed by the child’s physician. Discuss your child’s medical needs and his/her need for a Medic Alert bracelet. Furthermore make sure you have enough adequate medication and a reliable travel health insurance.
# 3 Bring along food staples, as a back up
Before embarking on a trip make sure you prepare safe food bag. Bring along sealed pouches of food to avoid empty stomachs and the stress of having to source food while in transit.
# 4 Choose self-catering accommodation
At home you are in control and can prepare safe food and control your child’s environment on the road you are at the mercy of circumstances and the staff of restaurants, petrol stops, airlines and hotels. By choosing self-catering apartments you can prepare your own meals and snacks.
# 5 Visit the local supermarket
Labeling rules are different per country. UK and other EU countries are required to label for sesame – it’s not required in the US yet. Most big super market chains have ‘Free From’ product ranges, in the UK Marks and Spencer’s and Tesco have whole lines of “gluten free” stuff and common allergens are listed in bold on the label.
# 6 Food & travel translation cards
If traveling abroad, language might be an issue.
- Select Wisely has translation cards in 65 languages and various designs, make it easy to tell waiting staff about dietary requirements, allergies or special medical needs. These cards will be shipped to you.
- Allergy Translation offer credit card size cards in 43 languages that include up to 10 allergens per card and their severity, you can also create cards for special diets, such has gluten-free or vegan. The cards can be printed off immediately at home.
- You can also use google translate and look up all your allergies in the language of the travel destination, so you can read food labels or instruct waiting staff.
#7 Air travel – call the airline before your trip
Some airlines are known to take special care of allergy sufferers, by going beyond simply offering various meal options, which cater to different dietary and allergy requirements. When Cyndi travels with Xavi Phoenix she has learned to adapt to the situation and takes the necessary steps to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction on board. “We ask that the airline refrain from serving peanuts on the flight we take, we ask that they make an announcement to fellow passengers to refrain from eating peanuts, and we ask to pre-board to clean the surfaces that may have peanut residue near us. Some airlines and passengers oblige, and some don’t. We bring safe snacks, 4 epi pens, Clorox wipes, and a change of clothes. Luckily we have never had a reaction while flying and I always feel prepared and knowledgeable to jump in and help my child or a fellow passenger who may need help.” Delta Airlines is one of the airlines that has a strict peanut allergy policy in place – notify customer service when making your booking and talk to the gate agent and cabin personnel on the day of travel.
# 8 Plan your holidays to countries that are allergy safe
Thailand is a country where a multitude of dishes contain peanuts or are cooked in peanut oil. Hence taking a peanut allergy sufferer there can be tricky. Take the allergy risk factors into account when choosing your next destination.
# 9 For peace of mind research local hospital facilities
Always travel with the appropriate emergency medication, such as an Epi pen, and make it a point to try and find the nearest emergency room just in case. Some people also recommend to rent a car or make sure Ubers or Taxis are readily available to ensure a quick drive to the nearest medical facilty.
# 10 Healthy versus safe
We all aim for our little ones to follow a healthy diet. While traveling the only safe food choice may be a sealed bag of potato chips. If the choice is unhealthy but safe versus (potentially) unsafe but healthy – unhealthy is the clear winner on this occasion.
In the US there is an App & website called Allergy Eats, which lists over 800.000 allergy-friendly restaurants across the United States.
Or head over to LizKingsDesign on Etsy. She designs beautiful personalized medical alert pouches for children.
Tell us about your experience and tips while traveling with kids who have food allergies.