Ask Gadling: Kids, allergies and travel

Kids and allergies.Traveling into unknown territory can bring up a lot of questions. We’re here to help. This week’s question comes from Sarah in Illinois, whose son has allergies that make it difficult to travel.


“My husband and I love to travel, and our son is just getting old enough to withstand long rides on the airplane. Unfortunately, he has a fatal allergy to nuts. We want to expose him to different cultures and instill our love of travel in him, but we don’t want to be irresponsible parents and are afraid to take him anywhere we don’t speak the language. Help!”

Gadling: You certainly don’t sound like irresponsible parents to me. Don’t worry, you can travel. I’m allergic to nuts myself, and it’s never stopped me. Allergies are becoming more and more prevalent these days, and that’s actually good news for you and me, because across the world, people are starting to understand. Obviously, you should consult with your pediatrician to ensure you cover all the medical bases, and here are four things you can do to help keep your son safe while you travel wherever your wanderlust takes you.

1. Get allergy language cards. Visit SelectWisely.com to purchase strongly-worded cards that explain your son’s allergy in any language and with pictures. There are language barrier issues that could confuse the situation; learning “nuts” in every language won’t necessarily be good enough. In some languages, a nut is considered a fruit, so you’d be saying your son is allergic to fruit, and they might not think twice about serving him chocolate with a little hazelnut or something cooked in peanut oil and so on. Get these cards to avoid confusion and present them at every hotel and restaurant you visit.

View more Ask Gadling: Travel Advice from an Expert or send your question to ask [at] gadling [dot] com.

2. Bring snacks. There is a danger, especially if you’re visiting a second or third world location, of there not being enough good food for your son. Nuts are staples in the diets of many countries, and the less variety of food there is available, the more miserable your son may end up being. Pack some canned food (and a can opener!), beef jerky, fruit rollups, any snacks that you know he can eat. You don’t want to be up a river on a daytrip in Africa with nothing around but groundnuts available for hours.

3. Travel with an EpiPen. This is a no-brainer. You probably already carry one of these for his safety, but in case you don’t, it’s an auto-injection device which your doctor can prescribe. If, despite your best efforts, your son starts to show signs of anaphylactic shock, a quick jab with the EpiPen could save his life by buying him time to get to an emergency room.

4. Consider a cruise. Particularly if you are hoping to travel to Asia, where so many of the sauces use nuts, consider taking a cruise. That way, you can inform the ship of your son’s allergy and eat exclusively onboard if need be.

Good luck and safe travels to you!

Air Canada ordered to offer a no-nuts option for allergic flyers

The Canadian Transportation Authority has ruled that Air Canada needs to create a “nut-free” zone on all of its flights, to accommodate those passengers who are severely allergic to nuts. The order came after two passengers complained that the airline had failed to properly accommodate their allergies, which the CTA ruled should be treated as a disability.

According to Toronto’s National Post, the airline has “30 days to come up with a plan to create a ‘buffer zone’” to separate those who have nut allergies from the rest of the passengers, who may receive a snack with nuts in it.

I feel for people who have severe nut allergies, really I do. The constant worry that something you eat may contain nuts, the fear that someone may eat a nut near you and cause you to have a bad reaction, the pain of not being able to enjoy all the delicious nuts out there in the world. I mean, have you ever had a macadamia nut? Those things are pure heaven.

Should passengers be denied the right to eat something delicious because there is a chance that another person on the plane might be allergic to it? It’s tempting to say no, but really, when you think about it, is offering a peanut-based snack so important that it is worth risking someone’s life? Some allergies really are that severe and there are plenty of other snack options out there that don’t involve nuts. I actually have to side with one of the complaining passengers on this one – it just makes more sense to get ride of nut-based snacks altogether.

[via USA Today]

Have food allergies, will travel

Traveling with food allergies must be hard.

Even in many countries in Europe, menus simply don’t list all the ingredients used in meals. My Canadian friend went into an allergic shock in Prague because of his nuts allergy. He figured eating a sandwich would be safe. Of course, they didn’t mention the sandwich had pesto in it. And pesto contains pine nuts…

And that’s Prague, which is now fairly Westernized. Imagine what it must be like to travel in Asia, where not only do they use peanuts a lot more but it is much harder to read the menus and find people who speak English well enough.

This ABC article talks about traveling with allergies. It is about the challenges of a traveler with serious food allergies, who presents a card to the waiter noting his allergies to peanuts and peas, written in the native tongue. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. Some waiters even say that they have “never heard of such allergies.”

I found it really interesting to read, although I don’t have any allergies. How do you deal with food allergies when traveling?

Hypoallergenic Hotel Rooms

Most stories are about how bad hotels rooms are, but here’s good news for many. The NY Times just ran a story on some hotels that go to great lengths to clean their rooms.

The Premier Hotel in Times Square, for example, uses ozone, tea tree oil, dust-mite covers, and other methods to create the “Pure Room.” And they aren’t the only ones. The article lists a host of other hotels making similar changes. Some charging premiums of five to ten percent over a ‘normal’ room, some not.

The process is not cheap. It often requires ripping out carpets and drapes, throwing out mattresses and duvets, and installing new equipment, such as air purifiers, filters, and maybe even wooden blinds and hardwood floors.

Aside from the physical changes, cleaning changes can also be made, including swabbing doorknobs and phones with germ-killers, misting surfaces with antimicrobial agents, and four-hour ozone treatments.

But watch out. What might make things clean doesn’t necessarily help those with allergies, and vice-versa.

Photo: Mussels