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Travel safe with food allergies
With the Christmas season on the horizon, many of us will be looking forward to having a holiday. If this involves travelling away from home and you have food allergy and/or the risk of anaphylaxis to consider, here are some tips that might help.
Firstly, plan ahead as much as you can, and understand what is involved in both the travel to your destination, as well as how you will need to manage food allergy and the risk of anaphylaxis while you are there. This applies whether you are self-driving to a destination in New Zealand or flying somewhere overseas.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) has a great checklist for travelling with allergy, asthma and anaphylaxis, as well as a travel plan for people at risk of anaphylaxis.
These emphasise the need to have plenty of medications with you and to consider whether you should take more than two adrenaline auto-injectors (e.g., EpiPens®). Replacements may not be available in some countries.
Our travel advisor, Delwyn Robinson, recommends booking overseas travel through travel agents rather than directly online.
This is so the travel agent can contact airlines and hotels and notify them of your food allergies, find out what their policies are and make arrangements for you where possible. They can also hold most flight bookings for a couple of days while you check arrangements can be made and arrange travel insurance.
Airlines vary in how they cater (or not) for people with food allergies. Some might agree not to serve nuts on flights where a passenger has declared a nut allergy in advance, but most will not guarantee their flights will be nut-free. This is because they cannot guarantee what other passengers might bring on board, and because of the risk of cross-contamination in food being served.
However, they may be able to cater for a dairy- and egg-free meal (which has more to do with catering for vegan customers than for those with food allergy).
For airline travel it is recommended that you:
Where possible, book accommodation where you can self-cater for meals. Find out what the emergency numbers are in case something goes wrong and you need to call an ambulance.
Also, carry food allergen translation cards in the language of the country you are visiting.
For more information, see travelling with food allergies.
Allergy New Zealand allergy advisor Penny Jorgensen