There’s a lot to think about when travelling with severe allergies. But with the right prep and research, you can still enjoy holidays.

“I have suffered from anaphylaxis since I was two years old, to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, chickpeas and more,” says Julianne Ponan, allergy campaigner and founder of allergen-free food brand Creative Nature.

“However, I grew up with parents who never wanted my allergies to limit me, which is why travel was something they ensured we did from very young, even though they had their worries and fears.”

Here, Ponan and medical experts share some top tips for travelling with allergies…

Plan and prep ahead

Firstly, make sure you specify your allergies when taking out travel insurance, so you are fully covered in the event of any medical emergencies overseas.

Next up, flying. That can be particularly anxiety-evoking for anyone living with potentially life-threatening allergies.

Ponan’s top advice? “Do your research,” she says. “When choosing the airline provider, check and print out the allergy policies. If I’m struggling to find the policy, I reach out directly to the airline to notify them of my allergies and provide them with my flight information. This ensures staff are informed well in advance.

“There is not one standardised global airline allergy policy, which can make it difficult, and some airlines may not even have an allergy policy, or finding it on their website is a minefield,” adds Ponan, who is on a “mission” to see standardised policies introduced.

“Sometimes it falls under the dietary requirements area, so make sure you double-check this. It will usually showcase specific meals they can offer, as well as whether they operate a peanut/tree nuts-free airline.

“There are many airlines making positive strides – in fact, budget airline easyJet was one of the first to adopt a nut-free airline [policy], they even have an area when booking that you can tick to advise that you have a nut allergy.”

Ponan also likes to pre-board early. “This allows me to prepare my seating area and surroundings meticulously. Despite the thorough cleaning by airline staff, I prefer to personally wipe down surfaces to eliminate potential traces of peanuts or nuts. This is crucial for the mental preparation of individuals with allergies before flying.

“Upon arrival, I make it a point to inform the check-in staff, boarding team and flight crew about my allergies, specifying the location of my EpiPens, which are always easily accessible in case of a reaction.”

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Carrying and storing medication

Carolina Goncalves, superintendent pharmacist at Pharmica, suggests planning ahead with extra prescriptions.

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Travelling often causes delays in accessing replacements, especially when the holiday entails remote areas or countries where prescriptions may not be readily available. Carrying an extra EpiPen also provides peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy your holiday without unnecessary worry,” says Goncalves.

“Keep the back-up medication separate from the original medication, but in an easily accessible place such as a different bag if travelling alone, or with a family member or friend if travelling in a group. With the latter, it’s worth informing others who may not know about your condition on how to correctly store and administer the medication, in case you’re unable to do so yourself during an emergency.”

Always keeping your EpiPen accessible is vital. “Severe allergies almost invariably require immediate treatment, which is why the first thing affected individuals should think about is storing allergy medication such as an EpiPen in a place that can be reached quickly and easily,” Goncalves adds.

“Depending on the city or country you’re travelling to, local authorities may ask to see a prescription, so it is always worth keeping the original doctor’s prescription with the medication. Moreover, the medication should be correctly labelled, and include the traveller’s name and contact information in case misplaced.”

Dr Chun Tang, GP and medical director at Pall Mall Medical says: “Extreme temperatures can affect its efficacy, so store it in a cool, dry place. Additionally, familiarise yourself with the local emergency services and healthcare facilities at your destination in case of a reaction. It’s also reassuring to have your own GP’s contact information handy for peace of mind and continuity of care.”

Medical/allergy ID cards

Dr Tang says: “It’s strongly recommended to carry a medical ID card. The card provides crucial information about your allergies and emergency contact details to healthcare professionals in case of an allergic reaction, or any other medical emergency, while you’re abroad. This ensures you receive appropriate and timely medical care, even if you’re unable to communicate your medical history effectively.”