I love summer! School is out, the weather is warm, the days are long, and everything just feels more relaxed. I mean, what’s not to love about that? The only inconvenience of summer is the love-hate relationship I have with travel and vacations.
Although it is sometimes just a quick weekend trip to a neighboring town, my family aims to take one vacation “time-out” every summer. And every year, I expand my comfort zone a little more. When we first started this food allergy journey, I was terrified to go anywhere. Then I graduated to nearby vacation destinations and eventually made it all the way to out-of-state vacation destinations. And you know what? We had a GREAT and safe time on all of them! (Yea!)
But this summer proved to be different because for the first time we would be flying and not driving. I’ll admit now that I’m not a fan of flying…never have been…and probably never will be. There’s just something about being all those feet in the air in a machine hurtling at a crazy speed toward a brand new destination. Silly, I know, but an anxiety for me nonetheless.
When I added food allergies to this equation, my stress level went just a teensy weensy bit high. Okay, so it skyrocketed! There is a TON of information on flying with food allergies out there, but like most things in this world, not all of it is accurate or helpful. In fact, in the weeks before our departure I heard at least two stories about food allergy incidents on airplanes that went horribly wrong. While I do think it is important to learn from these incidents (if there is anything good that can be gained from such an experience), I found it rather upsetting that so many of our very own in the food allergy community used it to strike fear into the hearts of fellow food allergy parents instead of using it as a gentle reminder of good flying practices.
A friend of a friend who has several children with food allergies was kind enough to listen to my concerns and then calm my multiplying fears. She flies often with all of her children, some of which have food allergies AND asthma, and does so with a great deal of grace. I’m not sure what I would have done without her, so thank you sweet Melanie!
Here are some tips and tricks about flying with food allergies that I learned, used and now want to share:
- Plan ahead, plan thoroughly, and try not to worry.
- Fly with a signed letter from your board-certified allergist noting what medications your child needs and why. (I did not need mine, but it is always good to have.)
- Consider purchasing something that your child can wear on the plane denoting he/she has a food allergy. (I purchased a Survival Strap for my son and he loves it.)
- Pack all medications in your carry on. Do not pack your medication in your checked luggage in case it is lost in transit.
- Travel with at least two epinephrine autoinjectors for your child in the original prescription packaging. (My son wore his in his SPIbelt around his waist. No one so much as lifted an eyebrow at the amount of medicine or the epinephrine autoinjectors we carried.)
- Be mindful of your prescriptions. Many national pharmacies, such as Walgreen, etc. can easily pull up your prescription in their network and fill it at any location. Keep your local pharmacy’s number in your phone and ensure you have refills on file before leaving town. If you run out of or need more medication, your local pharmacy can forward the prescription on to another pharmacy (any company) where you are located and I can be refilled there.
- Remember that all liquids you carry on should be under 4 oz and will need to be placed in a quart size Ziploc bag, that includes medication. Remove the Ziploc bag from your luggage during screening and place separately on the screening belt. (Many liquid medications are also available in a pill form which some allergists may approve for traveling. We had a Ziploc bag full of meds, inhalers, and so on and again no one so much as lifted an eyebrow.)
- Put asthma medications in a clear Ziploc baggie in your carry on (with prescription labels if at all possible). We carried several inhalers and a chamber and no issues whatsoever.
- Let your airline and flight crew know you have a child with food allergies. Every airline and each crew is different. Some crews will elect not to serve peanuts during the flight. On some occasions crews will announce that there is a peanut allergy on the plane so other passengers will know. However, it doesn’t happen consistently, even within the same airlines. It is a good idea to carry wipes and wipe down your child’s seat’s arm rest and tray table. Avoid using the pillows and blankets as an extra precaution.
- Make traveling fun! Pack a special goody bag for your child filled with safe snacks, books, games, toys, music, or even movies. If traveling with crayons, it is worth it to spend a little extra to buy the triangle crayons that won’t roll.
I hope you find these tips as helpful as I did when they were shared with me. I’ll confess that I’m still not wild about flying with food allergies (or even without to be honest), but it can be done safely and is done so every day by thousands of people. This last week, my son and I were two of them! 🙂