Air travel with severe food allergy
You will already know that you should never take a risk with food, but this is especially true when you’re in the air away from access to medical help. So thinking ahead about how to handle your flights and minimise the potential problems is a must for anyone with a severe food allergy.
- Read the airline’s allergy policy before booking your flight
Many airlines post their policy on their website, though it may be difficult to find the exact website page.
- Research the airline’s food and beverage service
For individuals with peanut/nut allergy, try to choose an airline that does not serve complimentary peanut/nut snacks with the beverage service. This will greatly decrease the risk of exposure to peanuts/nuts during the flight. What is more, never ask an airline to guarantee you a “peanut-free or nut-free flight” flight. No airline will ever give you such a guarantee.
- Notify the reservation agent of your food allergy when booking
You can also ask if your information can be forwarded to the flight crew. For passengers with peanut/nut allergy, ask if a lower-risk snack can be served during the flight (i.e., pretzels instead of packaged peanut/nut snacks).
- Organise your medication and the documentation to go with it
For security purposes, keep your prescribed medication in its original packaging and have your emergency plan with your medication. It is also recommended that you have your medicine’s prescription, and a travel plan or letter from your doctor confirming your food allergy and indicating you need to carry your medication and food/drinks with you. What is more, always wear medical identification indicating your allergies.
- Try and arrange to board early
If possible, ask the gate agent to let you pre-board the plane in order to inspect/clean your seating area. Wipe down the seat to help prevent contact reactions or inadvertent skin contact with food particles or spills. Eating food off a contaminated surface area could lead to accidental ingestion of allergens through contamination.
- Never eat airline food
Pack your own food, it’s not worth the risk. However, you may want to check with the airline to see if there are any restrictions as to which types of food you are allowed to bring on board or to your destination.
- Always keep your prescribed medication with you, within easy reach
Do not store in the overhead bin. Let others you’re travelling with know about your allergies so they know what to do in case of emergency on the flight and where your medication is stored.
- Consider informing passengers sitting in your area about your food allergy
Keep in mind, however, that the airline will probably not make an announcement to the other passengers, and that other passengers can eat food they have brought onto the aircraft.
- Always be courteous and polite with the flight crew
They are there to help and you need to help educate them without making unrealistic or unnecessary demands.
This article has been produced in collaboration with Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia and Alphapharm Pty Ltd (trading as Mylan Australia) in the interest of anaphylaxis education