Allergies have a huge impact when you are thinking of going on holiday overseas. In fact, for many parents of allergic children and allergic adults, it can feel much easier to just stay at home. However in doing so we deny ourselves experiences enjoyed by others.
I’ve lived in Beijing for a time and I love to explore new places – I try not to let being allergic to so many things limit my horizons. I may make a choice not to travel by air for environmental reasons, however I don’t want to make that choice through having allergies.
I know that with many disabilities and conditions travelling can become a logistical and stressful nightmare – however I do feel we have to face those difficulties head on otherwise our world becomes smaller and smaller. We can end up feeling trapped by something which is not our fault. Believe me, being severely allergic is not something anyone would choose.
Travelling for your holiday – however you plan to get to your destination, someone with allergies has to think carefully about what this will mean when it comes to food. For example, I’m very allergic to all nuts, that doesn’t just mean I cannot eat them, it means I cannot be near them in any way. So not only can I not eat nuts, those around me should not eat nuts either. You may be surprised how much resistance there is to this – I’ve even been accused of denying someone their human rights. However my human rights are being denied if I’m affected and have an anaphylactic shock. Some airlines will not even take passengers like me! I’m pleased to say recently Easyjet has taken a very proactive stance on this and I applaud them for it.
It’s not just airlines – you need to have a conversation with any provider of transport whether it’s a coach company, a chauffeur, a taxi driver or a mate who is driving a group of you in a minibus. Your allergy becomes their responsibility too. What they eat can impact you. Safe snacks are key to this type of travel. Where can you get safe snacks? Oh yes – at Creative Nature! One other tip – take hand wipes and if you can, wash your hands frequently to mitigate the risks of contamination.
Holiday food – if you are a planner and you have allergies you will find this crucial part of holidaying easier. When you have allergies or you have a loved one who is anaphylactic you have to plan really well in advance. By sending emails or telephoning early to ask about catering for someone with severe allergies you will soon get the vibe if this hotel is empathetic to your situation when it comes to food. Have some basic questions to hand to find out if they have a range of foods for your dietary needs, they are willing to ban certain foods from a restaurant or eaterie during your stay (nuts for example), are confident their staff will be empathetic and knowledgeable around ingredients. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other allergic people you may know on social media to ask for their advice and experiences.
Pets – this can often get forgotten. However if you have allergies and you are affected by cats and dogs, are you staying somewhere that is pet-friendly for others – yet distinctly unfriendly for you? If you are in a dog-friendly hotel – was there a dog in the room before you checked in? Has the room been deep-cleaned ready for your arrival, have you even had a conversation about that to ask for that? No provider of accommodation will know about your complex needs unless you tell them.
Eating out – if it’s very difficult to trust any member of staff at any restaurant, café or other eaterie when you ask for a full list of ingredients at home, how about in a country which is not your country of birth – or where you don’t speak the same language? Other countries may not have the same laws around labelling or rules around allergens that we have in the UK – and even here there’s a way to go. Try to do some research about this if you can – reach out to others on social media about how they tackled this. For me this is a huge danger.
Medical – you have to think and plan for a medical emergency when in another country. Do some research around how that country’s medical system works and how you can access it if you need to – do you know where the nearest hospital is? Do you need special travel insurance for that country? Finding out when you are in a crisis situation will be too late – and it could cost you very dearly. Have an alert about your condition about your person so that if you are unconscious it can be accessed – if you can try to get it in the language of that country, or even have some cards with images to alert those around you about what’s happening.
One great tip is to have translation cards to help you when travelling overseas. Allergy UK offers sets of translation cards for various countries and it costs from £15 – details are here – https://www.allergyuk.org/get-help/translation-cards
If you want to share with us any stories related to holidaying overseas with allergies – please drop us a line too. For more guidance on flying with food allergies, click here for a very helpful article by Amar Hussain