All posts by TheAllergyMama

A PR pro, health comm expert and mom who has a daughter managing multiple food allergies, asthma and eczema. I'm on a journey to raise awareness, increase education and provide services to address communication needs for those who serve and support the allergy community.

Take direct flights and other travel tips for allergic passengers

SWA heading home bWI

I am a morning person, but my food allergic daughter is far from it. As much as I dread dragging our family through an airport at 6 a.m., some consider this a better option when requesting allergy accommodations. Booking direct flights each way at 6 a.m. is sometimes tough in cost and logistics. However, avoiding the stress logistics of dealing with different flights, crews and fellow passengers on a connecting flight may be worth the cost.  Also keep in mind there is no federal policy to guide airlines on allergy accommodations and every airline allergy policy differs.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when traveling and managing allergies:

There is a greater chance of a cleaner plane first thing in the morning.  Most aircrafts are cleaned at the end of the day. The possibility of peanut dust or other remnants of allergens from earlier flights may be less.  However, be sure to request to pre-board and still clean your seats, trays and other areas with Clorox wipes.

When the flight announces no nuts will be served, there may be less sounds of “sighs” on board at 6 am. Yes, I was surprised when this happened  on one of our flights when my daughter was younger. Also, when you personally ask passengers around you to forego snacks that contain peanuts and tree nuts at 6 am, they may be more willing and if they had morning coffee.

These requests help prevent allergy exposure, causing a potential life-threatening reaction, known as anaphylaxis, which requires emergency administration of epinephrine (epi-pen). And only you can help save an allergic child or yourself if you have allergies. Airline policies vary on whether flight attendants and crews are trained to handle allergic reactions or  able to administer epinephrine without a doctor on the plane.  Depending on the airline and flight crew judgment, a medical emergency landing may be be permitted. So, despite the two epi-pens you will carry on hand close to you during the flight, it seems to me having others skip the peanuts for a few hours is a  better option for everyone.

Since policies clearly differ for every airline, as a starting point when booking flights, check out Allergic Living’s travel chart of airline policies. 

Bring the airline’s policy with you on board your flight. I’ve also found travel reminder tips and other advocacy resources helpful at NoNutTraveler. Keep up with knowing your rights and the advocacy efforts underway by national organizations, such as FARE (Food Allergy and Research Education). Through FARE, you can send a prepared letter to your legislators to support a bill requiring Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine. Also follow recent allergy related litigation and other travel related information through organizations such as the Allergy Law Project.

Be it pet allergies, peanut allergies or other related conditions, always alert the airlines of the necessary accommodations for your disability. Fellow passengers and the flight crew can have empathy and respect in the friendly skies. But not always.

Don’t let recent news headlines of families getting “kicked off the plane” for their food allergies deter your travel dreams or  determination to speak up for safe allergy travel.

 

 

Mindfulness and chocolate energy snack eases food allergy meltdown

First it was a bag of caramel popcorn brought into our home and we noticed the label, “manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts and tree nuts” label. We’re used to these labels. But on this day, it bothered my daughter. And then came the tears.  I did what any parent would do. I comforted her, acknowledged her frustration, and then ordered nut free caramel popcorn and cookies from Divvies. While food should not be a source of comfort, this was a legitimate exception.

Divvies Popcorn

A few days later, while busy in activities on the road, we decided to go to a local Burger restaurant. Not a new place. Spoke with the manager about the practices and ingredients. Unsure of the production process of the burger buns, he recommended having the burger on lettuce. I looked at my daughter and she said, “Never mind, I don’t want anything.” Then she just sat down and cried. And now I had to hold back my own tears. So we went to Red Robin, recently ranked by Allergy Eats as one of top 10 allergy friendly restaurant chains , and  picked up a to-go order for her. By now I lost my appetite.

The following weekend we attended our book club meeting that had safe and nutritional snacks. The host also offered  cake pops to the girls from an event she previously hosted. I really did not feel like going through this again. I asked the usual questions about the cake mix, icing and requested labels. The uncertainty in the responses was enough for an answer. I could sense sadness about to reappear again from my daughter. Then another parent said to her “Oh,  I  made you a special snack from a recipe for you, it’s free from your allergies.”  The chocolate thin mint energy bites were delicious and the gesture made it that much more tasteful.  A light reappeared on my daughter’s face.

The parent is also my hairstylist. I was not completely surprised by the gesture from someone who owns a salon, and is in the business of taking care of others to make them look and feel beautiful. Being the exception for once made my daughter feel exceptional. Moments like this also gives a light of hope that non food allergy parents can have empathy. It simply takes understanding the bigger issue is the feeling of exclusion and its impact on food allergic children.

Nine years on this journey, we still have our meltdowns. But mindfulness keeps us uplifted.

By the way, I had to request the recipe which we’ll try at home and share on a next post.