|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
Food Allergies and Travel
Gillian loves to travel, and she's determined not to let her food allergies stop her. She says feelings of awkwardness and worry about her food allergy have faded as she gets older. Now she doesn't hesitate to ask questions about food, no matter where she is. She knows that ignoring her food allergy could lead to a bad reaction — and draw a lot more attention to her, not to mention put her in some serious (and vacation-wrecking) danger.
Yes, people with life-threatening food allergies really can take off on weekend road trips, spend a summer abroad, or vacation in the wilderness. It just takes confidence and planning.
Get Your Mind Ready
Planning a trip can be stressful for anyone. But people with food allergies may feel particularly anxious about leaving their familiar home environments. It's easy to understand why: Not only do people have to stay safe in a new place, but they also have to handle any social concerns that arise, like asking for special accommodations, avoiding certain activities or places, or explaining the need to prepare and eat their own food.
Even among friends, people can sometimes feel embarrassed or uncomfortable raising food allergy concerns. So it's natural to worry that it might feel even more awkward in a new environment or culture.
Perhaps the best way to boost confidence and calm nerves is to research and plan your trip thoroughly. Think ahead. Instead of trying to push worries aside, use them as a guide to prepare yourself for the kinds of situations you might face in a new place. Remind yourself that your anxiety is real — and understandable.
You already know how to manage your food allergies — you do it every day. The strategies that help you cope at home can work well on trips too.
Think about what kinds of situations might come up and how to deal with them. Talk through any worries with supportive friends and family who will be joining you on the trip. Not only can they help you avoid risky situations, they can also be your emotional support system.
If you're traveling overseas, talk to someone who understands the country's traditions and culture to get tips on how to manage your allergy and still fit in.
If someone other than you or your family (like a teacher or friend's parent) is organizing your trip, be sure that person is clear on what your needs are. Be sure that he or she understands enough about food allergies to look out for you.
Get Your Plan Ready
Planning ahead can help you feel less anxious about what could go wrong and more excited about the adventure ahead. Start a couple of weeks to a month in advance by making a detailed to-do list.
Get Your Plan Ready (continued)
Staying alert, taking precautions, and carrying meds are just part of normal life for someone who has a food allergy. Once you've done it once or twice, traveling with food allergies will feel perfectly routine. You feel less like you're "traveling with food allergies" and more like you're simply "traveling."
With careful planning, travel can be liberating and help you feel more independent. You'll learn just how good you are at taking care of yourself.