Allergies are the worst. Especially food allergies: The repercussions are far worse than the sniffles, and they make eating while traveling risky business. Naturally, most adults with food allergies know how to take care of themselves while eating away from home. Still, foods hide as ingredients in dishes, or they can unknowingly become contaminated—and it's scary when someone takes a bite of something and suddenly can't breathe. At that point, they may not be able to help themselves.
If a member or two in your group has food allergies—whether nuts, fish, wheat, egg or whatever was in the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino—consider these tips.
Get the specifics.
Find out which foods your group member is allergic to and what the reaction symptoms are. Many symptoms are immediate, such as a rash, tingling in the tongue or mouth, or trouble breathing. Others take longer to show up. Trouble breathing, faintness and throat tightness could be signs of anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can lead to sudden death. It's important to immediately get help for these symptoms.
What's up, Doc?
Politely request your group member visit his or her doctor six to eight weeks before the trip for a checkup. Your group member should talk with the doctor about necessary adjustments to any treatment plan, and ensure he or she has all the medication needed for the duration of the trip—and a few extra days, in case of unexpected travel delays.
Don't go nuts on the plane.
Traveling by air? Research airlines in advance, and ask about their policies and services. Do they serve snacks that contain ingredients a group member is allergic to? Airlines can't always guarantee flights free from trigger foods, but they could ask passengers to refrain from eating them. Additionally, most airlines are happy to provide special meals and snacks; just request them at least 24 hours in advance.
Give restaurants a heads up.
Again, your group member probably knows the drill and will inform the waiter of any food allergy. If you're calling to make reservations for your group, however, let the restaurant know of any food allergies.
Suggest to your allergen-laden group member to pack an emergency food stash, just in case. For instance, if he or she requested a special meal on a flight, and that flight is cancelled, the meal isn't going to follow along to any new flights. "Hangry" travelers aren't happy customers.
Choose accommodations wisely.
Eating out can be tricky for those with severe food allergies, so try booking accommodations close to a local market or grocery store. If all else fails, your group member will be able to buy his or her own food staples. Bonus: Food shopping is a great way to experience local culture.
Prepare for the worst.
Even with proper health steps, travel emergencies can still happen. Know what medicine your group member takes to treat reactions, and learn how to use the epinephrine injector if he or she has one. Additionally, locate a qualified allergist, hospital or pharmacy in your destination, in the event your group member has an allergic reaction and needs help.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.