Although there is justified emphasis placed on the physical health of people with severe food allergies, we also may experience particular mental health challenges, especially if we’ve already experienced an anaphylactic attack, said Lisa Lombard, a clinical psychologist and research professor at the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research at Northwestern Medicine. Her practical advice to allergic adults or parents of allergic children is to discuss health risks of any travel-related scenarios (in-flight reactions, language barriers at restaurants) with their doctors, so there’s a plan in place before traveling. “One of the key drivers to anxiety in general is just not being certain about something,” said Lombard.
Dr. Michael Pistiner, a pediatric allergist and the director of Food Allergy Advocacy, Education and Prevention for the MassGeneral Hospital for Children, recommends keeping two pillars in mind while traveling with an allergy: prevention and preparedness. This includes everything from having an action plan for anaphylaxis to simply carrying a bit of beef or plant-based jerky to keep you from, well, being a jerky.
By making sure you’re prepared, you’ll have snacks and meds on hand, so you can be flexible (as you’ll inevitably need to be) without sacrificing pleasure or safety, said Kortney Kwong Hing, who is allergic to peanuts and co-founded the food allergy website Zestfull and a Facebook group for traveling with allergies. “Sometimes things just don’t go your way. A plane is delayed, a museum is closed, the restaurant you really wanted to visit can’t serve you a safe meal. Be ready to pivot and see the change as an adventure and not a problem.”
As two travel-loving people who have learned to take our allergies seriously, we are able to honor not only our physical and mental health needs but also our wanderlust. We know that having certain items on hand in our carry-ons can set the tone for the whole trip and, in some cases, prevent us from being stuck in a stressful and potentially dangerous situation. With this in mind, we put our heads together and spoke with other people who have food allergies to recommend some items to pack before your next trip—whether you’re headed to the airport or hitting the road.