Allergies are the worst. Especially food allergies: The repercussions are far worse than the sniffles, and they make eating while traveling risky business. Students with allergies often know how to take care of themselves. Still, foods hide as ingredients in dishes. Foods could unknowingly become contaminated. Students get caught up in the excitement of traveling and forget to pay attention.
And it’s scary when a student takes a bite of something and suddenly can’t breathe.
Whether your students are allergic to nuts, fish, wheat, egg or whatever was in the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino, know how to help them while traveling. Consider these tips.
Get the specifics.
Find out which foods your students are allergic to, and what the reaction symptoms are. Many symptoms are immediate, such as a rash, tingling in the tongue or mouth, or trouble breathing. Others take longer to show up.
Note that trouble breathing, faintness and throat tightness could be signs of anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can lead to sudden death. It’s important to get help for these symptoms immediately. A Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan should be on file for every student with food allergies.
What’s up, Doc?
Politely request that parents take their kiddos to the doctor at least six to eight weeks before the trip for a checkup. They should know any necessary adjustments to their treatment plan, and they should have all the medication they need for the duration of the trip—and a few extra days, in case of unexpected travel delays.
Don’t go nuts on the plane.
Traveling by air? Research airlines in advance, and ask about their policies and services. Do they serve snacks that contain ingredients your student is allergic to? Airlines can’t always guarantee flights free from trigger foods, but they could ask other passengers to refrain from eating them. Additionally, most airlines are happy to provide special meals and snacks; just request them at least 24 hours in advance.
Give restaurants a heads up.
If you’re calling to make reservations for your student group, let the venue know of any allergies. It’s also a good idea to confirm any adjustments for food allergies with staff once you get there.
Suggest to your allergen-laden student to pack an emergency food stash, just in case something goes wrong. For instance, if he or she requested a special meal on a flight and that flight is cancelled, the meal isn’t going to follow along on any new flights. “Hangry” travelers aren’t happy customers.
Pick accommodations wisely.
Eating out can be tricky for students with severe food allergies, so try booking accommodations close to a local market or grocery store. If all else fails, a chaperone could go with a student to purchase his or her own food staples. Bonus: Food shopping is a great way to experience local culture.
Prepare for the worst.
Even with proper health steps, travel emergencies can still happen. Know what medicine your student needs to treat reactions, and learn how to use the epinephrine injector, if he or she has one. Additionally, locate a qualified allergist, hospital or pharmacy in your destination, in the event your group member has an allergic reaction and needs help.