Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

6 Tips for Traveling with Food Allergies March 7, 2017

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Spring break is on the horizon!  Can you smell the fresh air already?  Are you mentally packing your bags? (I am!)

 

Here are a few tips when traveling with food allergies:

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  1.  Call your airline and inquire about their food allergy policy in advance.  Ask specifically about early boarding and in-flight announcements.
  2. Most airlines will allow passengers to board the plane early in order to wipe down surfaces (this includes seat backs, seat belts, tray tables and knobs, armrests). Be sure to bring enough baby wipes or antibacterial wipes (such as Wet Ones) to cover all the legs of your travel.  Again, ask about pre-boarding at the gate.
  3. Carry your epinephrine auto-injectors and antihistamines ON BOARD.  Do not pack these away in your luggage.  [*ALLERGY SHMALLERGY TIP*: Zyrtec makes dissolvable tablets which eliminate the worry over bringing liquids through security as well as anything spilling in your bags.]
  4. If you’re traveling to a warm weather destination, you’ll need to remember to keep your epinephrine auto-injectors at room temperature – even while enjoying the beach or pool.  Pack a cool pack (like this one) and an insulated bag (like this cute lunch bag).  Store the cool packs in your hotel’s mini-fridge (who needs a $15 bag of M&Ms anyway!?) or plan on ordering a to-go cup of ice to keep the medicine cool poolside.
  5. A hotel or resort’s food services manager can usually help you navigate menus.  On our last vacation, the food services manager had food allergies himself and was invaluable in hunting down ingredients and safe alternatives for our family.  Befriend this fantastic person!
  6. If you’re planning on visiting an amusement park, taking a hike or being similarly active, consider packing a backpack into your luggage (or use one as your carry-on!).  You’ll need to bring your epinephrine auto-injectors wherever you go – especially on vacation when you’re away from home cooking, familiar restaurants and local knowledge of hospitals and doctors.  Backpacks can make carrying it easier depending on the activity – simply slip the insulated bag into your backpack and go!

 

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Two more notes:

  • Airline travelers should bring their own snacks/meals on board flights to ensure their safety.
  • Refrain from using airplane blankets and pillows as allergen residue may reside there.
  • Bring a baby or antibacterial wipe to the bathroom to wipe down door  and knob handles.

 

 

 

No-Brainer: Support a Bill to Place Stock Epinephrine on Airlines November 6, 2015

No Nut Traveler

My food allergy colleague and the brains behind No Nut Traveler, Lianne Mandelbaum, has helped introduce a bill to place stock epinephrine on airlines and train airline personnel on the symptoms on anaphylaxis and how to administer autoinjectors.

This is a safety measure that just makes sense.

An in-flight food allergy reaction is frightening and can be deadly.  It’s a situation that our family has experienced first hand.  My father-in-law DISCOVERED he was anaphylactic to shrimp (at age 40) on a transcontinental flight midway over the Atlantic Ocean.  Amazingly, there WAS an epinephrine auto-injector on the flight but the flight attendants wouldn’t deliver the injection, stating they needed a doctor to administer it.  When he flashed his medical credentials (he’s a surgeon), the attendants told him (as he ballooned and his condition became serious) that they required ANOTHER doctor to administer the life-saving medication.  Luckily, flight attendants and passengers assembled a hefty dose of Benadryl that helped ease the reaction until the plane landed several hours later.  Imagine having your first anaphylactic reaction as an adult to a food that you’ve loved and eaten safely for years? It could happen to anyone…

Lianne has helped inform Sen. Mark Kirk (R – IL) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D – NH) who introduced bill S.1972, the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act of 2015, to Congress.  Current co-sponsors include Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

I encourage you to read more about this bill and the efforts behind it at No Nut Traveler.  And, please reach out to your local representatives and ask them to support S.1972.  What an easy way to make air travel much safer!

 

Vacationing and Staycationing with Food Allergies March 13, 2013

It’s that time of year and not a moment too soon:  Spring Break is upon us!

 

Whether you’re traveling near or far, there are a few things you should do to make sure your spring break is exciting and safe.

 

 

Staying close to home doesn’t mean you can’t shake up your routine.  Explore that neighborhood you’ve been meaning to check out, visit a museum, wander an outdoor market…  But before you go, you may want to do a little prep work:

1.  Sometimes it’s the museum closest to you that’s the hardest to visit.  If you’re heading to a museum, theme park, theater or zoo, you may wish to do some prep work.  These venues often have limited nutritional options, waitstaff often cannot track down ingredients in their high-paced and sometimes chaotic environment and the safety of their menu cannot be guaranteed.  Compound that with a picky eater and you could have a fun-ruining meltdown on your hands.  So, before you go, stick one or two of your child’s favorite dry snack in your bag along with those EpiPens – just in case.

 

2.  Ditto for outdoor markets.  Unless you’re going to a farmers market or pick-your-own farm, it’s often impossible to rely on the cart or truck vendors to know a full ingredient list and/or guarantee that their food is safely prepared without cross contamination.  So, again, plan on eating just before your visit to that flea market and, again, bring treats for the kids.

 

3.  If you’re taking your kids to a new section of town, you’ll want to scope out an eatery nearby that is likely to be safe.  Regardless of whether or not you intend to have a meal while out, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for more fun (or random bouts of hunger).  Check out the options online (including menus) and make a phone call or two to ensure that something can be safely prepared just in case a meltdown occurs.

 

4.  Some of the fun of staycationing is mixing up your routine!   So, try having some dairy-free sorbet for breakfast (see a list of local places right here at Allergy Shmallergy).  Have a gluten-free picnic in the park.  Eat that nut-free dinner under a tent in the family room.  Fun and safety can go together very simply and easily!

 

If you’re going out of town:

1.  Be sure to pack your emergency on-the-go pack in your carry-on.  EpiPens are perfectly acceptable going through security.  And, be sure to include baby wipes to wipe down tray tables and arm rests on airplanes that serve nuts, if you are allergic.

 

2.  Again, pack snacks.  You can buy a drink at the airport but safe meals are more difficult to come by.  Not only is it sometimes a challenge to find FA safe meals at the airport, but getting information to ensure that they don’t contain allergens and are, in fact, safely prepared can be next to impossible.  Snacks will tide you over until you reach your destination.

 

3.  Airline meals and snacks may not be safe. Call the airline and ask them about their allergen policy.   For FA kids, it might be easier to feed them at the airport or bring a bagel or sandwich in addition to snacks onboard for long flights.

 

4.  If you’re traveling abroad, do a little research about how food is typically prepared.  In parts of Asia, soy sauce (which contains not only soy but also wheat) is commonly added to dishes.  In the Middle East, sesame seeds are quite popular.

 

5.   Talk to the hotel concierge to find any specialty items you may need.  For us, we contacted our hotel to find out where we could purchase soy milk for my young son while in the Caribbean.  While on the phone with the hotel, ask them to clear the minibar fridge so you can keep any specialty items fresh.

 

6.  Again, if you’re vacationing somewhere where the don’t speak your native language, you’ll want to feel confident that the waitstaff understands your food restrictions.  Try ordering some food allergy translation cards.  These cards, made by a number of wonderful companies, help you communicate your family’s food allergy (and other dietary) restrictions in a foreign language.  Encourage waitstaff to take the cards back into the kitchen so that chefs themselves can understand the parameters and make appropriate adjustments.

 

7.  Finally, arrive prepared.  When going abroad, our research indicated it might be tough to easily find a whole allergy-free breakfast for my FA son.  While we could order fruit, everything else offered at the resort seemed to conflict with his allergies.  So, we packed a bag filled with convenient breakfast food like small cereal boxes, raisins, and oatmeal.  He could have a head start to breakfast in our room while we got ready and snack on fruit, etc at the restaurant table.  Plus, we could use the empty bag to haul our souvenirs home.  A win-win!

 

The key to a successful spring break is relaxation.  So no matter what form that takes, use the above steps to ensure that a food allergic reaction doesn’t hamper your fun.