Ask Gadling: Kids, allergies and travel

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 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.

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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!