Travelling with food allergies

Tips for travelling with food allergiesBlog Category: Travel Assist

Allergies can be common, especially amongst children. At times, allergies may deter people from travelling due to some of the uncontrollable and unpredictable aspects of travel and the range of likely events to which one may be exposed. Whilst avoiding known foods or products is the best approach, recent reports of a child experiencing an allergic reaction on a flight from Singapore and requiring adrenaline, has highlighted the importance of being prepared and equipped to manage any developing or serious situation.

One in five Australians will have an allergy during their lifetime. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and some may even be life-threatening. Allergies occur when the immune system reacts, like a form of defense, against a food or product (allergen). Common allergens include dust mite, pet hair, pollen, molds and certain foods such as gluten, nuts, eggs and seafood. When someone with an allergy comes into contact with the food or product they are allergic to, their body mounts an immune response. Cells in the body release histamine causing common reactions such as swelling, itching, breathing problems (asthma) and stomach upset. The most severe form of life threatening allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. It occurs in a small number of people, with its severity requiring immediate treatment.

Here are some tips for people with known food allergies to assist in making travel easier and more enjoyable.

  1. See your doctor 6-8 weeks before you travel. Ensure you have su cient medications for your trip. Take a doctor’s letter outlining your medical conditions and any required medications.
    If you have been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector, you should carry it with you at all times, and seriously consider taking more than one auto-injector depending on your length and country of travel. Adrenaline auto-injectors may not be available in some countries.
  2. Make sure you are up to date with your immunizations. Allergic asthma can be triggered by a respiratory infection, so consider in uenza vaccination prior to departure.
  3. For people with anaphylaxis who need adrenaline, take your ASCIA Action Plan for Anaphylaxis and a Travel plan for Anaphylaxis. Both need to be completed by a doctor. Have these with you at all times. These can be downloaded at:
    Action Plan: anaphylaxis-resources/ascia-action-plan-for-anaphylaxis
    Travel Plan: anaphylaxis/2015/ASCIA_Travel_Plan_Anaphylaxis_2017.pdf
  4. For air travel, inform the airline of your food allergy. Find out what policies the airline has in place for passengers with allergies. Every airline is different. As a further preventative measure, consider wiping surfaces, tray-tables and arm rests at your designated seat on the plane. Stow your medication in your hand luggage or keep on your person, where it is easily accessible. If traveling by yourself inform the flight attendant where you are storing your medications. It is wise to take your own food on the aeroplane.
  5. Book accommodation ahead of time. Inform them of your food allergy. A self-catered facility may be a safe option for you if you have food allergies as you are fully in control and can prepare all the foods yourself.
  6. If eating out, eat at reputable places. Tell the restaurant about your food allergy, preferably ahead of time, so they may be able to suggest suitable meals and provide a list of ingredients. Avoid buffets due to the high risk of cross-contamination.
  7. If travelling to a foreign country where you can’t speak the language, consider purchasing a travel card outlining your allergy. These cards help to communicate what you are allergic to in the native language. They can be purchased online. An example can be found at
  8. Research your destination, and ensure you know where the nearest medical centre is and how to get there from your accommodation provider. If you have an anaphylactic reaction whilst away requiring the use of adrenaline, then you must seek medical attention.

With plenty of planning, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip.