Oh no, not again. You might know this exact feeling. You wake up in the morning and suddenly feel a burning sensation on your face or all over your body. Before you even make it to the next mirror and manage to take a glance at yourself - you already know - shit, not yet another skin rush or allergic reaction. Oh well. That exact thing happened to me this morning. And in fact I’m writing this article looking more like a chipmunk than my usual self – thanks to a completely swollen and reddish face. Not sure what triggered the allergy though, but I will find it out eventually.
I certainly have to endure my fair share of allergies - Peanuts, Wheat, Gluten, Lactose, Sun exposure, Penicillin, Chemicals (detergents and cosmetics) - you name it – which means I certainly can tell you a thing or two about that topic.
Travelling (especially international travel) when you suffer from allergies or intolerances might scare you away at first, but once you follow these simple steps – which I learned by trial and error during my travels – I promise you that you will stay healthy throughout all of your trip.
#1Try to book an apartment, or make use of the mini-bar.
When you suffer from allergies, there is nothing more beneficial than being able to prepare your own meals. Just buy fresh vegetables or whatever you know works for you and make your own, and therefore certainly safe dishes.
I found that renting an apartment is sometimes a cheaper option than you might initially think. It is definitively worth a trial.
#2 Find out where to eat ahead of time.
Find out what common allergens are in the local cuisines so that you can judge whether it’s safe to eat out on your trip. Check out the nearby supermarkets and restaurants around where you stay well in advance. This way you can browse through menus beforehand and make sure you know what to expect upon arrival.
#3 When at Restaurants, play it safe.
My tips on eating out at restaurants – or even at a friends’ place – when you have to cope with allergies are the following:
- Always ask about the ingredients, even though it might seem a common recipe.
- Talk to the staff at the restaurant, even if you feel uncomfortable doing so. If the waiter doesn’t know what’s in a certain dish, ask the chef.
- Always ask how the food was prepared – for example there might have been some oils used which you are allergic to.
- Don’t unnecessary chances unless you are prepared to face the consequences. When in doubt, leave the restaurant and go look for a different venue. Trust me – this decision can save your health and your holidays as well.
- Also, don’t blindly trust restaurants that claim that they can handle food allergies and keep inquiring until you feel comfortable with eating there.
#4 Bring some pre-packed food along with you.
If you are not able to find reliable information about local markets or grocery stores, make sure you take enough packaged food with you, so you can take your time exploring your surroundings for a couple of days without the discomfort of hunger and the stress of having to find something safe to eat on the spot.
#5 Always carry your medicine with you.
Even though I don’t take any regular medication, over time I formed the habit of taking some of my medication for a range of health issues with me on every trip. Most of the time I don’t need any, but I feel much safer having them with me.
I always tell myself:
"If I have the medication with me, I won’t need it"
– and it works out pretty well most of the time.
If you need to take any medication for your condition, make sure to have everything on you at all times.
Always pack your antihistamines or even your epinephrine if you suffer from serious food allergies. Also have your anti-nausea meds and antacids on hand - to minimize the misery, just in case.
#6 Check out Hospitals close by.
If you happen to suffer from severe allergic reactions to food: make sure you research local hospitals and nearby doctors way ahead of your trip. Also check out and note down the local emergency phone numbers. I certainly recommend taking out travel insurance as well. Just in case.
#7 Find out how to communicate your allergies in the local language.
There are a lot of websites offering translations of allergen information into a variety of different languages. Make sure you know what you have to say when you need to ask for something. Writing down your allergens would be also a good choice.
Travelling with food allergies definitely requires a lot more preparation, but it is worth it and this way you will be able to enjoy your WHOLE trip.
For the most part, I’ve managed to travel without major issues, although I’ve had some miserable fails as well. But I keep on going and I’m sure I will optimise my routine over time, until I’m an absolute allergy-travel expert.
Do you have any allergies? Or any tips how I could prevent myself from getting allergies while travelling?
I love to hear them all.
Lots of love