Beth’s Allergy Blog Part 3: Travelling with a Food Allergy
“I think many sufferers will agree that travelling is probably the most stressful part of living with allergies – certainly it’s the aspect of my life that is influenced by my allergy the most.
The difficulty and anxiety of travelling occurs throughout the entire travel process and holiday itself.
There are certain places I would love to visit, but the practicalities of going with an allergy are too overwhelming for me to even consider. I would also love to travel solo, but I’m not sure me or my parents could deal with the risk of me being alone during an allergic reaction.
One of the main impacts of travelling with a food allergy is the amount of medication required – I’ll take double my ‘usual’ medication so that I always have a back-up. This means that in total I’ll have 4 auto-injectors, 4 inhalers, Piriton in both tablet and liquid form with me, as well as any translation cards. I’ll also take packets of anti-bacterial wipes – they’re useful before eating and to wipe down my area on trains and planes. You can imagine how big my hand luggage always has to be!
I keep my first set of medication in a separate place to the second set, so should I lose a bag I still have a full set of medication. I never want to put myself in a position where I don’t have some of my medication, as I’d literally be putting my own life at risk. Luckily when travelling in the UK, I don’t always feel the need to carry the second set, as I’m able to get emergency medication if I need it.
Travelling by plane is the worst. Many airlines are still very relaxed with their allergy policy, seeing it as a person’s right to eat peanuts on a plane if they wish. But I really believe that if those people eating peanuts on planes knew someone with an allergy and understood the life or death risk and the anxiety caused by it, they wouldn’t even consider eating nuts.
I understand that peanuts are not the only major allergen, but removing them from flights is such an obvious and easy change to make, and one that would affect so many people in a positive way, that I can’t begin to understand why it shouldn’t be implemented.
I have had some amazing experiences with airlines, where I’ve shown my doctors letter explaining the severity of my allergy and they’ve allowed me to priority board – which means I can make sure my area and the area next to me is as clean as possible. I’ve also had cabin crew go above and beyond for me – they’ve made announcements to the whole plane, and personally told the few rows directly in front and behind me about my allergy. I’ve had cabin crew check-in with me multiple times throughout the flight to make me feel comfortable and happy with the meals served onboard. Little things make a big difference when it comes to travelling with allergies.
Walt Disney World is the gold standard for dealing with allergies. I had a near perfect experience whilst visiting for 2 weeks this year. I could eat so much whilst I was there it was unbelievable.
Public transport ie. buses and trains, come with a little less risk as it’s easier to remove yourself from the situation, but I’ve still had some issues. During one cross-country train journey they were offering peanuts as a snack – and when recent press has shown just how dangerous allergies are, I do find it unbelievable that train services would actively encourage passengers to eat one of the 14 major allergens. I appreciate that it may be unrealistic to ban nuts entirely on trains, but I don’t think it is a lot to ask that train companies don’t actively encourage it.
When you are travelling you are going to an unfamiliar place where you don’t know necessarily how you would replace lost or broken medication, and there are more aspects of travelling with allergies than most people could even begin to imagine. I’m not entirely sure I could fully explain the reality in just one blog post, but I hope I have shown a little insight into the experience.
If you’d like to see the reality of what happens when travelling goes wrong for an allergy sufferer, then I’d recommend reading the story of Amy May.”