Recently I was out with a group of friends for dinner at a downtown restaurant in Toronto. As always, it’s good to get together with friends, family, co-workers or peers, to catch up and share stories. So it wasn’t an unusual setting for one of the ladies to mention that she has severe seafood allergies and would appreciate it if none of us ordered anything with seafood. We all, with concern, immediately went into panic mode. Not because we needed to eat seafood at that particular meal. But, what do we do now? The questions started pouring out of us, like water from a tap.
- Do you carry an Epi-Pen?
- Does this restaurant cater to people with allergies?
- Have you had an anaphylactic attack before?
- What about the people at the next table, how close is too close?
Having lived with this for most of her life, she was only too happy to answer all of our questions after she removed the Epi-pen from her purse and placed it on the table beside her. That evening we all got a full lesson in how to deal with someone who has an allergic attack, and also how to administer the Epi-pen.
Dealing with any medical emergency is a frightening experience for anyone, but knowing the emergency number to call, the anticipated response time, and being aware of how close the nearest hospital, does offer some comfort. Now imagine being in a foreign country, where the answer to those dilemmas are not quite as apparent.
This evenings lesson gave me something to think about, much closer to my personal interest. Traveling with food allergies can be tricky, and this shouldn’t mean that you stay away from travel. It just means that you may need to take a bit more time in planning for your trip in advance to make sure that your trip is safe.
- Keep your medications (Epi-pen) with you, and carry a Dr’s note that states the necessity of these medications. ** IMPORTANT – show epinephrine visually to the Custom Officer, since the effects of X-Ray machines are not known.**
- Check to see if the restaurant you will be visiting caters to food allergies, and if they cook certain foods separately.
- Carry an Allergy Alert Card – This explains to your server and to the chef what exactly you have allergies to, so they can advise you correctly with the precautions that have or have not taken.
- Write out an emergency plan in case you do suffer from an allergic response. This will alert others as to what to do and decrease the panic that may ensue.
It would also be wise to mention to the Insurance company, that you do have food allergies. Questions will be asked to whether you have suffered a recent anaphylactic attack, or been hospitalized, but it is always good to be up front with this information, so that they have all the information when they issue your policy.
As you can see, that even after taking all the necessary steps, mishaps can still happen, and you wouldn’t want to be caught off guard. So another important part of the planning process would be to include trip interruption/cancellation as part of your travel package.