Top 5 Tips on Traveling with a Life-Threatening Food Allergy

Traveling with a food allergy or other dietary restrictions can be a scary experience. It is even more frightening when you have had an allergic reaction close to death. Several years ago, I had an allergic reaction after eating some contaminated food in Spain. Fortunately, I survived that trip, but I have been much more prepared and cautious during my travels.

Here are my 5 tips:

1. Bring multiple EpiPens.

EpiPens are the most important thing to take with you because they buy you time to get emergency care. A few minutes can mean life or death. In my case in Spain, the nurse said that if my traveling companion, Daraius, had not used the EpiPen on me, I probably would not have survived.

2. Bring another emergency medication.

Visit an allergy specialist and get prescriptions for the medications you need. I always carry Benadryl (available at the counter) and Prednisone (an anti-inflammatory).

3. Minimize risk by formally notifying service personnel.

I always carry the Select Wisely chef’s cards with me. You can customize by spoken language and allergy. These have been invaluable in helping to prevent the allergies that happen in the first place because the written instructions seem more serious than an informal conversation. In Spain, I verbally informed the waiter that I had a potentially deadly allergy (and I speak Spanish fluently, so I know it was not lost in the translation). I think if I had a written card I could read and bring to the chef, it may not have happened.

4. Bring back food.

When I travel to extremely remote places or countries with less developed emergency care, I always bring my own food in case I do not feel safe. In the Dominican Republic, I was once on a dive excursion where the fish was served for group lunch. So instead, I ate some granola bars I brought from the United States. My favorites are Probars because they are full of protein and fiber.

5. Train your traveling companion (s) on how to administer your medication.

If you travel with others, let them know the signs of an allergic reaction and how to use your medication in case of an emergency. And consider staying with that person until ~ 2 hours after eating, which is when the most serious reactions occur.