Travelling Abroad With An Allergy | May Contain
By May-Contain Contributor Analese
It was my first time flying solo with an allergy and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. I booked an all round trip with my main stops being Rio-de-Janeiro, Pheonix Arizona and New York City. Brazil being my main attraction as I had never been to South America and would be fulfilling a life long dream of attending the infamous Brazilian Carnaval.
Before jetting off I had to do my research, although this wasn't my first time flying, it was my first time flying alone and having to be 'on-the-ball' with all aspects of safety including having to manage my nut allergy (as always). I explained to my travel agent just how severe my allergy was and she passed all information given to Delta airlines. Before this point in my life, I never wore my allergy bracelet, I just kind of 'got on with it' (so to speak.) I hate making a fuss about my nut allergy but have definitely come to realise it is something worth making a fuss about, after all it puts my life at risk. At this point, I had notified the agent, slipped my allergy bracelet onto my wrist, went to my GP to renew auto-injections/antihistamine prescriptions and ordered my first nut-free meal for my flight (not all airlines have this service so please check airline allergy policies). I researched how to tell people about my allergy in Portuguese and luckily a friend at that time had a boyfriend who spoke fluently. He sent me a few voice notes to help and I also looked into getting allergy cards but in the end I decided to create my own.
I was all set and ready to be jumping on off of planes as if they were hopper buses. I worked out that I'd be on and off of approximately 11 planes if I included the domestic flights I hadn't booked as yet. I was placed with priority boarding and was told that my area had been wiped down and cleaned. As I settled down into my seat an air hostess greeted me by name to confirm that I was the passenger with the nut allergy and said that if I needed anything, i just needed to let them know. They made an announcement over the tannoy informing other passengers that there was a passenger on-board with a nut allergy and to refrain from opening any nut packaged products for the duration of the flight.
I was so impressed with how much care they took regarding my allergies I wasn't so used to people being so understanding and am often left feeling as if it is my own fault for having allergies.On one of my domestic flights travelling from Atlanta to Newark New Jersey I was waiting to go through the security checks when I heard my name over the tannoy "Can Miss Analese Thomas-Strachan report to the boarding desk please." I was so confused and a tad nervous as to why it sounded so urgent. I was ushered to the front of the security line before heading to the boarding desk.
I was greeted by a lady looking rather flustered. Apparently they were not told in-time about my allergy prior to boarding this particular flight. My main flight had all my details and especially as it were a connection flight with the same airline, I thought it would automatically be noted for all of my flights with Delta. She explained to me that I must always double check and confirm when checking-in on each flight so that the air staff could make the necessary provisions if there so happened to be a communication error. It was at this point I realised how much planning and preparation had to be done to ensure that nut allergy sufferers are safe on board an aircraft. They had to make an emergency order so that none of their foods had nut containing products, usually they would have pre-ordered this but as they didn't get the information on-time they had to take food from another aircraft. Passengers were told before boarding that no nut products would be served on-board and any packaged nut products they may have bought before boarding is not to be opened throughout the journey. The guy sitting next to me turned to me and said "I just bought a packet of peanuts as well. Don't you just hate that person on a flight? " I smiled at him before saying "Sorry mate, but I am that passenger." It was funny, the poor lad's face. It was like a scene out of a film or quick witted YouTube Sketch but then he realised I wasn't joking and I could tell that he felt a tad embarrassed by his comment. It was a great conversation opener that still makes me smile to this day. We ended up talking for the duration of the flight, he asked loads of questions and I ended up sharing with him the severity of my allergies. We even ended up being travel buddies after our plane journey and decided to travel from New Jersey to New York together. (He said he'd eat his bag of peanuts after we parted ways.)
Analese's Top Tips for Flying with a Nut Allergy
Notify your doctor about travel plans and request a letter listing all allergies and medication needed.
Make sure your auto-injectors are up-to-date, it is best to carry 2 or 3 for safety! Also stock up on those antihistamines! (You'll never know when you may need to pop one of those bad-boys. Hopefully you won't need to though.)
Carry quite a few snacks in your hand-luggage, you can never be sure if you will be able to eat on the plane even if you are assured that all measures are in place before flying.
Notify your travel agent and although they will notify the airline make sure you also speak with the airline before travelling. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Double check that all flight journeys are aware of your allergy a day or two before getting on the plane, including connection flights as sometimes the message doesn't get passed on. (Sometimes you can do this via online check-in the day before dependent on airline.)
Get Translation Cards if you are going to a non-english speaking country or make them. Particularly if you are travelling on a domestic flight in an non-English speaking country. This website is great for free allergy translations https://allergyaction.org/translations/
Carry your medical alert bracelet/necklace at all times. They can look pretty cute too and are available in different styles. I've got one in silver and one in gold for a bit of bling (lol). www.universalmedicalid.co.uk
Make sure you know how to contact the emergency services of your destination.
Follow your instincts as they tend not to fail you.
Don't let the fear of having an allergy stop you from enjoying yourself and having fun. Be free, have fun just be aware and take the necessary precautions.