I am one of those unlucky people who has been given the ‘life sentence’ of having allergies. When I say ‘allergies’ I don’t mean hay fever, I mean life-threatening allergies. Today, allergies and intolerances are more prevalent than ever before – most of us know at least one person with an allergy or serious intolerance.
While most allergies can be managed effectively with medication, it doesn’t make having a reaction any less terrifying, especially when you are somewhere that’s far from home, which is why so many allergy sufferers are often hesitant to travel abroad. As well as the added fact that when you have a serious allergy, travel insurance can be a lot more expensive.
For me, my allergies – I’m allergic to peanuts, nuts and wasps – mean that travelling abroad can be terrifying. However, I believe that they shouldn’t stop me, and I try not to let them. It can be terrifying travelling with serious allergies, but if you are clued up about things, you don’t have to put your health at risk.
To give you a better insight into dealing with allergies when travelling abroad – or anywhere that’s out of your comfort zone for that matter – below I have outlined some of the struggles of travelling with allergies, as well as advice for dealing with them.
One of the most stressful parts of travelling for many allergy sufferers is the process of flying. Most travellers worry about being able to get cheap flight ticket deals, whereas for allergy sufferers, we are more worried about our welfare. Why? Because aeroplanes are air-tight with recycled air used on planes, which means that if another passenger consumes a product containing an allergen that you are allergic to, it can trigger a reaction.
A lot of airlines used to sell salted nuts as part of their snack collection, and some still do, however, if you inform your airline that you are allergic to nuts when you board, they should remove all nuts from sale and put an announcement out over the speaker asking other passengers not to consume any nut-based products.
A tip that I swear by is contacting the airline before you travel to inform them of your allergy. For instance, I’m currently planning a trip for next summer and am planning to fly via Malaysia Airlines. So after I use the Malaysia Airlines online booking form to get my plane tickets, I will call the airline direct to discuss my allergies and see what they are able to do to help keep me safe while I travel.
Pack translation cards
Something that panics a lot of allergy sufferers is the concept of going to another country and not being able to speak the language. This is because it means telling restaurants about your allergy and asking what’s safe to eat can be difficult, as there’s a language barrier. The answer to this, aside from only visiting places where you speak the language, is to carry translation cards that tell people about your allergy and how dangerous it is, in the local dialect.
I tend to get a bumper pack of these with all different sayings on them so that I know that whatever happens I am covered. I choose cards that say things like ‘I have a life-threatening peanut and nut allergy’, ‘I am allergic to wasps, and I have been stung’, ‘I need food that is nut-free or I will have an allergic reaction’. I also carry cards that say things like ‘I need a doctor’, ‘I need emergency medical treatment for anaphylaxis’, and ‘I have medicine in my bag, please administer it’.
Personally, I find that planning in advance makes travelling with allergies much easier. A great way to reduce the stress that you are under as an allergy sufferer abroad is to talk to other allergy sufferers. If you have a food allergy, it can be good to discuss safe places to eat where you are going, as this can help to put your mind at risk.
The fact is that living with a life-threatening allergy isn’t an easy task, especially when travelling to somewhere new or a place where you don’t speak the language. However, you can’t let your allergy stop you from living your life, or one day in the future you will regret it.