So, you’ve got a food allergy?

By Rachael Andrews 

Hooray! You’re going overseas, you’ve got your itinerary and nothing can stop you now… except for that pesky food intolerance you have lurking. Booking an overseas holiday, or even setting off inside your own country, is an exciting time, but for many it can also cause a lot of anxiety. Food intolerances are becoming more and more prevalent and while you can master what to eat at home, finding suitable food while travelling is a bit of a challenge.

Smørrebrød, tastier than it looks.
Smørrebrød, tastier than it looks.

My food intolerances didn’t start until my mid-twenties and really only leave me a bit sick and unwell if I consume something I shouldn’t. For many, however, the wrong food can be a life or death situation and medication and hospitals can be involved. As there really are a wide range of food allergies/intolerances out there, I’ll keep this more general and give you some helpful advice for travelling with a sensitive belly.

Tip # 1 – Firstly, notify your airline so they can have suitable food. DO THIS EARLY. You don’t want to be stuck on a 12 hour flight with nothing available to you.

Tip # 2 – Don’t forget to pack some back up food. Muesli bars, nuts, seeds, dried fruits etc can be lifesavers on the plane, if you’re in a random airport without anywhere decent to eat, or for while you’re taking in the sights.

Tip # 3 – Before you leave, do your research. Some countries cope better with food allergies than others and if you’re heading into non-English speaking countries, there is the added challenge of the language barrier to overcome. Luckily this can be made a little easier with the help of websites such as AllerGlobal (www.allergloval.com) where you can print off your allergies in the language of the country you’re visiting or Select Wisely ( http://www.selectwisely.com) which enables you to purchase allergy cards to suit your needs. Also, the Lonely Planet travel forums can be a big help (see here http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2007830 and here http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1846536) so hop on there and speak with fellow travellers who’ve done the hard yards first.

Tip # 4 – Have your medication handy and if it’s serious, have a decent travel insurance plan with health care cover. Of course it’s not something you want to think about when you’re off on an exciting adventure, but if your reactions can be severe, you may need medical help. Think ahead!

Tip # 5 – Above all, remember to have fun with it. You’ll be surprised what you’ll try and what countries will be so well-equipped to deal with your food issues that you may even consider moving there. For example, gluten allergies in Italy are considered a medical condition, they allow time off for locals to ‘research’ places to eat and many pharmacies have gluten free products. Parts of the US are very gluten free friendly and nut allergies are widely recognised now. However, there are certain parts of Asia that will not cope with nut allergies. Meanwhile France is very big on the organic and non-genetically modified foods and they cater well for many allergies. Think gluten free macarons and lots of them!

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5 thoughts on “So, you’ve got a food allergy?

  1. Great sentiments and some helpful pointers here, and difficult to keep it general. I would add that one of my fears are the nuts and seeds that you say can be lifesavers on a plane. I know what you mean but with peanut allergy, they can be the opposite of lifesavers for others, and represent one of my fears. And a metal box in the sky is the last place you want an anaphylactic episode.

  2. I’m allergic to Sesame. Once on a flight from Aus to US (in business class!) a bagel passed over my seat sprinkled seeds into my water glass. No I didn’t drink it, I’m pretty observant.

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