Travelling overseas with an allergy can be a worry, but you can still enjoy a stress and reaction-free holiday. Here's what you can do to keep yourself safe and healthy abroad.
If you have a food allergy, look into what dishes are popular in your destination country, check if they use your allergen frequently in cooking to find out what you'll need to avoid.
You should also find out how to contact the emergency services if anything goes wrong, rather than waiting until it's urgent.
Make sure that it will pay out for claims relating to an allergic reaction in case you need it to, otherwise you might need more specialist cover.
Many insurers will not cover allergic reactions, so make sure you get a travel insurance policy that will cover you if you happen to suffer and need medical treatment.
Check the terms and conditions carefully to make sure it does provide the cover you need. If you're not sure, just ask the insurer.
Before taking out a travel insurance policy:
Declare your allergy: If it's severe enough to require medical attention, Failure to do so can mean your claim is rejected and you'll have to cover the cost of any medical treatment yourself.
Check what the policy will pay out for: For example replacing an EpiPen or covering the cost of calling out an ambulance. Check if the insurer will pay the hospital directly, or if you need to do this and reclaim the money.
Check the excess: To work out how much you would need to pay towards any claims.
Get an EHIC card: If you're travelling in the European Union. It can cover you if you need medical treatment. Here is more on what an EHIC card is.
If it does, lifesaving treatment will be free, but you may need to pay for in patient care, which is why having travel insurance is important.
Look into local attitudes to allergies so that you can accurately explain yours. For example, most people in France will assume a nut allergy only applies to walnuts and not all nuts.
When it comes to food and your allergy:
Be as specific as possible when you explain your allergy
Check what ingredients are used in traditional cooking to be safe
Unless you're fluent in your destination's language or they speak English, it can be much tougher if something goes wrong.
Look up and write down some key words, phrases and sentences for your allergy before you travel. For example:
Does this have wheat in it?
I am having an allergic reaction, please call an ambulance
I can't have any nuts including nut oils because I have a severe allergy.
Alternatively, you can download a language translation app on your phone such as:
They are available from Allergy UK. They display messages about your allergy in the language of your choice.
It's worth asking if a host/ess on the airplane can help you note these down.
Tell your travel companions that you have an allergy and what they should do if you have an allergic reaction. If you have an EpiPen then make sure they know where you keep it and how to use it.
Wear an allergy bracelet if you have one, as it might be vital if things go wrong.
Keep vital information in your bag for the emergency services if you need their help.
Tell them about your allergy, preferably before you get there so they can prepare.
If you've gone with a package holiday, speak to your rep when you arrive and to see what help they can provide.
Make sure your medication like antihistamines or EpiPens are in date and that you have enough of them, including spares.
Keep your allergy medication in your hand luggage so it's accessible. Clearly label your medicine and get a doctor's note explaining what they are and why you need them to avoid any issues at the airport.
Ask that it's inspected manually rather than x-rayed, as it's not known what effect x-rays have on some medicines.
If your allergy is food-related, contact the airline well in advance of your flight.
Let them know what you're allergic to
Check to see if they can cater for you
If they can't, ask what your options are, they may be able to heat up food you bring
If you have a nut allergy, request your airline not to serve them as complimentary snacks to other passengers. Peanut dust in a high pressure cabin can trigger a reaction.
If your allergy is severe, your airline may request all passengers on the flight to refrain from eating or opening anything that contains your allergen while you're on board.
In a worst case scenario, if you end stuck abroad needing treatment and extended accommodation, you'll need a way to pay for it without your costs escalating.
A credit card with no foreign transaction fees is worth taking with you in case you need to pay for medical treatment and/or accommodation for you or your family.
Remember to check for ATM withdrawal costs abroad on the credit card you choose in case you're travelling to a cash-reliant society.
Prepare and plan early on so you can spend less time worrying. Be cautious and avoid anything you're not sure about to limit the risk of something going wrong.