By Kristen Chandler
In the previous article, we covered tips to help with preparing for childcare this summer. In this article we will focus more specifically on vacationing and traveling with food allergies.
Traveling With Food Allergies
If you are traveling out of town for vacation, make sure you are stocked up on all medications. Also, look up the telephone number of the nearest pharmacy (one open 24 hours if possible) to where you are staying and store it, just in case.
Before I had children, I was on vacation with my parents, and we got to our destination and realized my dad had left the bag with all of his asthma medication, aside from his emergency inhaler, at home. He was able to call his pharmacy and get them to call his meds in to the nearest pharmacy to us. So if you ever do forget something, it is usually fixable. And some things, like Benadryl, are available over the counter.
If you are flying, remember to carry all medication, if possible, in your carry on. Not only will it be accessible, but should your luggage get lost, at least you will have your child’s medication available.
Please also remember to follow the proper storage instructions for auto injectors. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR AUTO-INJECTORS SOMEWHERE THEY CAN GET TOO HOT! Try to keep them with you or close at hand at all times, while also regulating their temperature.
- Plan, plan, plan
Of course, most people plan ahead for trips, unless you take a road trip on a whim. But along with food allergies comes extra homework, and spontaneity isn’t really an option.
First of all, are you driving or flying? If you’re flying, try to find out ahead of time if the airline you plan on using will accommodate to your child’s allergies. If your child has a taste and/or touch allergy, or contact allergy, they are likely to be safer flying as opposed to someone with airborne allergy. Ask ahead to see if you can be provided with allergy-free food, or bring your own. Ask to see if the airline can refrain from serving the allergen or at least provide a buffer zone around your seating area if possible. Don’t use the airline provided pillows or blankets.
Are you going to a theme park or on a cruise? Find out what kind of allergy-safe dining options they have and what they do to accommodate people with allergies. If it’s a theme park, find out if you are able to bring in outside food, especially if their allergy-free options are limited. It never hurts to ask, and the more you find out ahead of time, the less stress you have to deal with when you get there.
Familiarize yourself with the area. Find out where the nearest hospital is and how to get there. Find out where the nearest pharmacy is and save their phone number.
- Stay Organized
Most every chain restaurant has an online menu that includes allergen and nutrition information. I suggest printing these menus out, especially for the restaurants you are considering eating at. Once you print them out, review them. Mark the safe options, and make a list of what can be eaten at that particular restaurant. I keep a binder full of all the printouts, with the lists of what can be eaten where in the front, and the allergen information in the back. They also make apps for smartphones that contain a lot of the same information, although some chain restaurants aren’t included in the apps. Another thing to remember is that, as with all foods, ingredients and preparation techniques are changed all the time. The websites (and I think the apps too) are good about keeping their allergen information updated, though. It will usually list at the top or bottom when it was last updated.
Also keep in mind that restaurants are one of the worst places to be exposed to cross contamination. I have found that calling ahead of time or writing out meal prep instructions on an index card and giving to your server to give to the cook helps a lot. The downside of this is that restaurants that are not chain affiliated, or that have a small amount of stores in select locations (think seafood places or mom and pop diners) usually aren’t included on the apps and usually don’t have online information. You will have to call ahead and ask about their menu or ask to see someone from the kitchen when you get there. We visited a restaurant once that is close to where we vacation at the beach. I had not called ahead and the choices were limited. But I did talk to the head cook, who prepared my son’s food safely and avoided cross-contamination. He told me if I would call ahead the next time, and let him know we were coming and what my son wanted to eat, he would make sure he had everything to prepare it safely.
If you are going to be staying somewhere with family or any other people, you also want to make sure your safe food doesn’t get mixed in with theirs. There are plenty of printable labels you can buy or even design yourself online. You can stick these labels on the safe food, so that not only your child knows this is safe for him or her, but also others know that this food is specifically for your child.
Check and double check your stuff before you go to make sure you have everything you need. Always pack extra food. Be familiar with where you’re going and have back-up options in place in case you do forget something, because it happens. But it doesn’t have to ruin your trip if it does! Also have back-up options in place for eating out, as not all restaurants always accommodate to food allergies.
I hope these tips help. If you have anything to add, feel free to let us know in the comments.