How to manage food allergies when travelling

Travelling with food allergies can be challenging, but planning in advance ca help keep you safe.

Travelling with food allergies is challenging, but careful advance planning helps reduce the risk of an allergic reaction.

Some things to consider when travelling with food allergies include to:

  • see your doctor first 
  • find out your airline's policy on medicines
  • get vaccinated 
  • check your travel insurance
  • make a travel plan for anaphylaxis
  • tell others about your food allergy
  • plan ahead on how to manage food 
  • carry translation cards
  • book self-catering accommodation
  • know how to find hospital and other medical facilities.

See your doctor first 

Always get specific information on travel and your health needs from your doctor, have an action plan for anaphylaxis and carry your adrenaline autoinjector with you at all times if you have been prescribed one.

Some other things you will need from your doctor include:

  • prescriptions to cover your trip
  • a letter about medicines you need to take
  • special vaccinations
  • a medical report for your travel insurance policy, if needed.

Find out your airline’s policy on medicines

Whether travelling by air within Aotearoa New Zealand or overseas, contact your airline to get their up-to-date policy on carrying medicines (and/or food). Do your research directly with your airline and not through a travel agent.

  • Most airlines recommend you carry some form of documentation or identification to support the need for your medicines.
  • A letter from your doctor and pharmacy labelled medicine is essential.
  • Keep your medicine in its original packaging to reduce the risk of having problems with security and customs.
  • Pack enough medicines and always keep your medicine and your emergency treatment plan with you at all times for easy access (including when you have your seatbelt on during your flight).
  • Bring some spare in case you get delayed, lose it or need a higher dose.
  • Make sure your medicines have not expired or will not expire while you are travelling.
  • Adrenaline auto-injectors must not travel in the cargo under-carriage for several reasons, including temperature control, risk of damage and the need to have your medicine close by.

Get vaccinated 

Depending on where you are travelling, you may also need vaccination against some infections. Ask your doctor or nurse about what vaccinations you need. If you have asthma, respiratory infections such as the flu can trigger an asthma attack, so ask about the flu vaccination too.

Some vaccinations may contain food allergens you are allergic to. Your healthcare team can provide advice on which vaccinations are suitable for you.

Check your travel insurance

Some travel insurance policies don’t automatically cover people at risk of anaphylaxis. Make sure you check this and take out a policy that protects you. There is sometimes an added cost if you have specific health conditions.

Have a travel plan for anaphylaxis

Download a travel plan for people at risk of anaphylaxis from the ASCIA website and have it filled in by your doctor or nurse. This helps if you are carrying your adrenaline autoinjectors in your hand luggage through security and customs. The travel plan is different from your usual action plans.

Tell others about your food allergies

Tell the airline and travel agent in advance that you have a food allergy. Ask about foods/snacks served on your flights and check that no nut snacks are served. Get the name of the person who helps you and, if possible, ask for confirmation of your requests in writing. Keep this with you at all times. Arrive early and allow yourself plenty of time to re-confirm your requests. On boarding the plane, wipe down the trays and arm rests to remove all allergens.

Plan ahead on how to manage food 

Consider bringing your own food to reduce your risk. If you do, before you leave, check what food you can take into your destination country any stop over countries. Dried or packet foods are easiest to manage on flights.

Most airlines have no food restriction policies. Some food allergens can be reduced, but remember, other passengers bring their own foods on the flight too. 

  • Think about the time of day you are travelling. If you are allergic to milk and egg, travelling after breakfast may be a little safer.
  • Ask for help from your fellow passengers. You need their cooperation, so work together to ensure a safe journey. Let those around you know that you or your child has a peanut or egg allergy, and to not offer them food.
  • Try to position a child with food allergies away from other passengers or areas where food and drink will be passed over them, eg, in a window seat or between you and a non-allergic sibling/partner.
  • On boarding, speak to the senior cabin crew member to alert them to the food-allergic passenger.

Carry translation cards

When travelling to countries where English is not the first language, it is recommended you carry a card with important emergency information translated into the required language.

Book self-catering accommodation

Consider self-catering accommodation, which gives you option to prepare food for yourself safely. Also ask about relevant inhalant allergen risk, such as pets, if you have asthma or hay fever. If you often get sick when away from home, talk to your doctor. They can increase your medicine or prescribe medicine for your travel.

Know how to find hospital and other medical facilities

Make sure you know the location and contact details of hospitals and other medical facilities at your travel destination, just in case they are needed. Also make sure you can contact emergency services, such as having a mobile phone.

References

  1. Travel plan and checklist for people at risk of anaphylaxis Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy 
  2. Travelling with food allergies Allergy NZ