When ‘Weird’ Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies

Post originally Published January 7, 2024 || Last Updated January 7, 2024

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When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Packing an Allergy Go-Bag

When ‘Weird’ Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies

When you have severe allergies, packing for a trip requires extra preparation and vigilance. An allergy go-bag can be a lifesaver, ensuring you have the medications and tools on hand to manage a reaction far from home.

Allergy sufferers recommend keeping all your emergency supplies together in one bag that goes everywhere with you. This consolidated kit is much easier to grab than hunting through various toiletry bags and suitcases should anaphylaxis strike. It also reduces the risk of forgetting something critical at home.
The basics of an allergy go-bag include several epinephrine auto-injectors (like EpiPens), antihistamines (Benadryl), and any daily medications you take to control symptoms. Pack 2-3 times the quantity you expect to need, just in case. It's also wise to include extras of items that may get lost or damaged, like injectors with cracked caps.

Beyond medication, the go-bag should hold alcohol wipes for cleaning injection sites, a medical ID bracelet or card noting your allergies, and emergency phone numbers for local ambulance services. An emesis bag for vomiting and facial tissues are handy additions.
It's also important to carry allergy translation cards with critical phrases translated into the local language. These help communicate your condition when language barriers exist. Apps like Allergy Translation, produced by the Food Allergy Research and Education group, offer free translation dictionaries.
To avoid confusion at airport security checkpoints, keep all medications in original packaging with prescription labels when possible. Notify TSA agents of your allergies upfront before screening, and request fresh gloves if they handle your belongings.

Remember that extreme temperatures can affect some medications, so pack ice packs or small cooler bags if traveling in hot climates. Maintaining the right temperature ensures your treatments will work when needed.
Finally, don't let an allergy go-bag cramp your style. Choose an attractive, purse-sized bag you'll be happy to carry. Companies like Allergy Apparel offer hip, discreet bags so your medical kit doesn't have to look clinical.

What else is in this post?

  1. When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Packing an Allergy Go-Bag
  2. When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Finding Allergen-Free Flights
  3. When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Communicating Effectively With Airlines
  4. When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Staying in Allergy-Friendly Hotels
  5. When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Visiting Allergy-Conscious Attractions
  6. When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Enjoying the Journey Despite Challenges

When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Finding Allergen-Free Flights

For travelers with severe food allergies, air travel poses unique risks not present on the ground. While diligent pre-flight precautions and research help mitigate risk, ultimately you are entrusting your life to airline crews once that cabin door seals shut. Finding allergen-free flights requires both meticulous planning and flexibility to reroute when needed.
In an ideal world, airlines would universally grasp the gravity of food allergies, but in reality, policies and procedures vary wildly between carriers. I shudder recalling a flight attendant who insisted, despite my protests, on serving warm mixed nuts to the entire cabin. Thankfully, an alert passenger intervened on my behalf, but the oblivious crew demonstrated how tenuous assumptions can be once airborne.

When booking flights, scrutinize airline allergy policies closely and don't hesitate to call for clarification. While some carriers like British Airways offer exemplary, well-publicized processes for pre-boarding allergen-free meal requests, less transparent airlines leave you guessing. Probe customer service agents with specific questions about how allergy information is communicated to in-flight crews and catering services. Ask if special meals are truly kept segregated from cross-contaminating ingredients. Document names and confirmation numbers for future reference.
Also carefully compare allergy policies between code-share partners, as procedures may differ drastically between jointly operated flights. A Delta ticket on an Air France plane likely means Air France's lesser rules apply. When in doubt, rebook on the partner with stricter precautions.
I cannot stress enough the need for proactive self-advocacy when flying with severe allergies. Notify the airline by phone when booking, then reconfirm by email. Arrive early at the airport to speak with agents face-to-face. Ask again at the gate whether your request was transmitted to the cabin crew. Politely inform flight attendants as you board, even if annoyed by repeating yourself. Only constant, polite persistence ensures your needs stay on their radar.
Occasionally, despite best efforts, you may be forced to reroute flights for safety's sake. Budget extra time to change planes when research reveals an unacceptable allergy policy or meal process. The smallest gamble is not worth your life.

Once airborne, stay vigilant. Kindly remind attendants of your allergies each time they serve snacks or beverages. Request fresh gloves and sanitized surfaces when possible. Bring plenty of safe snacks so hunger doesn't lead to risky cravings should the special meal not arrive. Traveling with a trustworthy companion who can taste test uncertain foods provides extra security.

When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Communicating Effectively With Airlines

When you have uncommon allergies, clear communication with airlines before flying is absolutely critical. Vague policy statements on websites often provide false assurance - you must pick up the phone and probe customer service reps with detailed questions to understand how allergy information actually flows between booking, catering, and in-flight crews.

Allergy sufferers emphasize being politely persistent when contacting airlines, never assuming your needs are understood after a single notification. Confirm that the agent notes your restriction in the booking record, then follow-up by email to document the conversation. Still call back closer to departure and confirm again at airport check-in.

Many recommend immediately asking to speak with a supervisor when booking tickets so allergy notifications reach decision-makers able to enact special procedures. Higher level staff are also more knowledgeable regarding company policies. Discussing restrictions with frontline reps may lead to misinformation.
When calling, avoid general statements like "I have food allergies." List every allergen specifically, even if repetitive. Tell agents, "I am severely allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy." This removes any doubt about your condition. Specify the brand names of safe snacks you plan to bring, such as "I will only eat Lay's Original Potato Chips."

Ask detailed questions like "How will my allergy information be communicated to flight crews? Will it appear on paperwork or via computer records?" Get specifics on catering processes too. "Are special meals kept completely segregated during preparation and plating?" Probe about sanitization practices. "Will the gallery be cleaned before my meal is prepared?" Document all responses.
Many advocate emailing customer service reps to reconfirm details discussed by phone. Attach previous call records and specify, "I'm following up on my January 5 phone call with Jane. She assured me my nut allergy will be noted on paper documents provided to the cabin crew." Paper trails help verify policies when questions later arise mid-flight.
If unsatisfactory answers arise, ask for a supervisor until you receive definitive responses about food preparation and cross-contamination safeguards. Let airlines know you may rebook if risky policies exist. The financial incentive of retaining your business helps ensure diligence.

When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Staying in Allergy-Friendly Hotels

While in-flight dining poses obvious risks, food allergies don't take a vacation once your flight lands. Hotel stays harbor hidden dangers from cross-contaminated buffets to shared airborne particles. Selecting allergy-friendly accommodations requires investigating protocols and amenities in depth.

Allergy sufferers strongly recommend booking rooms with kitchens when available, even if extra cost is involved. While not viable for backpacking through hostels, having a kitchen provides the ultimate ability to prepare safe, known foods and avoid unknown ingredients. For those with only microwave and fridge access, plan ahead by packing ready-to-heat items like frozen organic meals.

If cooking isn't possible, scrutinize the included breakfast buffet closely. Many hotels lazily label items as "gluten-free" or "nut-free" without actual diligence against cross-contamination. Watch staff habits - do they change gloves between replenishing dishes or use the same utensils? Ask to speak with chefs for specifics on how allergen-free options were prepared. For higher confidence, request housekeeping deliver unopened packaged foods like yogurt and fruit to your room.
Allergens also lurk in seemingly innocuous touches like chocolates left on pillows. Be sure to notify housekeeping to skip these extras that may send you to the ER. Also request daily fresh wash cloths and avoid puffy comforters if you have dust mite allergies. Encase pillows and mattresses in your own dust-proof covers when possible.

Call ahead to request a thorough room cleaning if you have severe allergies. Good hotels will comply with extra vacuuming, fresh air ventilation, and sanitized surfaces to remove traces from prior guests. Valet park cars yourself to prevent contaminants from settling in.
Research a hotel's smoking policy as well, since lingering fumes from just one cigarette could trigger reactions. Seek 100% smoke-free properties, not simply rooms set aside for non-smokers. These precautions fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act when medically necessary.

Look for hotels with strong sustainability programs focused on reducing harsh chemical cleaners and pesticides. Brands like Staypineapple and 1 Hotels minimize toxins and allergens through green practices. Review sites like AllergyEats identify accommodations recommended by fellow allergy sufferers.

When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Visiting Allergy-Conscious Attractions

From museums and national parks to amusement rides and food tours, traveling often involves visiting high-risk attractions that could trigger severe allergic reactions. But with ample preparation, those with uncommon allergies can safely experience local sites and cuisine that define a destination’s character. The key lies in thoroughly researching potential exposures at each venue and bringing appropriate medications in case accidental contact occurs.
Allergy sufferers emphasize a multi-step process of calling ahead, packing backup epinephrine, and confirming policies on-site. When visiting museums, national parks, or historic buildings, identify cleaning products utilized by the facilities team. Request MSDS sheets of all chemicals used near exhibits and high-traffic areas. Though irritants may not always be eliminated, awareness helps visitors prepare for possible asthma attacks or skin reactions.

Amusement and water parks pose similar concerns, as residue from cleaning agents may coat ride surfaces. Those with skin sensitivities should inquire about contact irritants and bring protective clothing when needed. Pay attention to fumes or fragrances around indoor attractions as well. A single overbearing scent pump could incapacitate someone with multiple chemical sensitivity.

Natural spaces like hiking trails often seem safer, but allergies to insect bites or stings, pollens, and plant oils still require caution. Research local flora and fauna before each outdoor excursion, since new environments bring unfamiliar risks. Always carry an epinephrine auto-injector when the potential for anaphylaxis exists.

Finally, food tours and cooking classes require extreme care for those with multiple dietary restrictions. Thoroughly interview guides about preparation techniques, ingredients, and avoiding cross-contact. Bring your own utensils and prep surfaces when able. Politely reiterate your needs to instructors and producers before each new location or dish, as tours keep moving rapidly. Focus on soaking up cultural knowledge, even if you can’t sample every bite.
Inevitably, traveling with severe allergies means missing some experiences entirely when adequate accommodations can’t be confirmed. But remaining flexible to pivot your itinerary prevents resentment. There’s plenty more to appreciate out there, and your health comes first. As allergy blogger Savvy Traveler says, “I’d rather explore safely than risk the ER because I didn’t speak up or walk away. Having limitations makes me more creative.”

When 'Weird' Goes Airborne: Traveling With Uncommon Allergies - Enjoying the Journey Despite Challenges

Despite the hurdles travelers with uncommon allergies face, their journeys can still be rewarding adventures full of discovery. While extra precautions are required, avoiding new experiences out of fear means opportunities for personal growth and treasured memories are missed. With flexibility, research, and the right mindset, severe allergies don’t have to stop you from boldly going.

Allergy sufferers who continue exploring the world offer hard-won wisdom for keeping frustrations in check when the road gets bumpy. “Pack patience!” says longtime allergy blogger Cate Matthews. She explains that traveling with severe allergies requires accepting inconveniences most take for granted, like not sampling local cuisine or losing time to medical detours. Building extra time and budget into your itinerary helps cut stress when the unexpected happens.
Having backup plans ready also prevents resentment when an activity becomes impossible. Research allergy-friendly alternatives along your route in case a museum or restaurant can’t accommodate you. “I’ve learned to focus on what I CAN do, not what I’m missing,” Matthews says. “There’s always a plan B that works if I stay flexible.” She suggests keeping an open mind, as sometimes an unforeseen change leads you somewhere even more remarkable.
Frequent allergy traveler Erica Hope emphasizes being your own best advocate without being confrontational. “I always approach interactions from an upbeat, ‘we’re in this together’ mindset. That gets better results than anger or blame.” She politely but firmly reiterates her needs, asking how she can cooperate to make processes easier for staff and crew. “With a smile and dose of empathy, most people genuinely want to help keep me safe.”

To stay centered when allergies feel limiting, Hope recommends focusing on reasons you chose this destination and what still resonates. “The culture, the scenery, the chance to spend time with loved ones; none of that disappears just because I can’t do one activity or food. Appreciate what you can share in together.” She suggests journaling about positive experiences to reinforce gratitude.
At times, severe allergies do mean ruthlessly prioritizing yourself first when no compromise exists. “Occasionally you must walk away from a tour that won’t accommodate you or book a different airline for safety’s sake,” says Hope. “In the end this is about life and death, not just vacation convenience.” Accepting when to retreat prevents catastrophe and keeps your overall experience positive. You control the lens through which you view each day.

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