Adjusting to life with food allergies is not a simple task: it’s a journey.
Like every journey, it has ups and downs. Think of it like taking a trip.
Explore the phases of “The Journey” as you adjust to life with food allergies, and we’ll accompany you along the way!
When you travel, after you feel a little more settled in to your new environment, you can start to expand your exploration. The same can be said for a food allergy journey. Check postings on our discussion boards for more information on the topics below when you're ready to branch out.
Eating Out - Communicate Your Needs
There is an inherent risk in eating away from home. Think carefully about where you go, when you go, how often you go, and who you talk to at a restaurant.
- Try to eat out on days and times that aren’t busy, so the staff will be more likely to give you full attention.
- Depending on your allergies some types of restaurants may just pose too great of a risk. For example, ice cream shops, bakeries, and Asian restaurants usually have an abundance of nut ingredients in their kitchens, causing a higher likelihood for cross contamination.
- It’s definitely a part of American culture to eat out. But how often is necessary for your lifestyle? Start small and as you succeed, expand your list of restaurants to try.
- When you eat out, talk to the restaurant manager about your food allergies. Show him or her a chef card to communicate your needs. Order simple foods without sauces, and ask lots of questions!
Some online resources for eating out with food allergies:
Starting School - Work together and Plan ahead
One of the most difficult milestones for the parents of an allergic child is the child’s enrollment in school. The task of working with school officials to ensure a safe environment for your child can be overwhelming and confusing. We’re here to help! We have collected a variety of resources in our Schools section to help you on your journey.
Traveling with food allergies - It can be done!
Traveling with food allergies might take extra planning and packing, but it CAN be done!
- Make reservations by calling the airline. Inform them of the allergies or other special medical conditions. Get an email of the planned accommodations and bring a paper copy to your flight. Learn about different airline policies.
- Pack safe foods for to eat on the airplane. (Remember, ice packs have gel or liquid and are not allowed through security.)
- Bring several epinephrine auto-injectors on board in a bag to be kept at your seat. Have the pharmacy put prescription labels on EACH auto-injector, rather than on the box.
- Bring extra snacks for people sitting near you in case they had planned on eating peanuts or other allergen-containing food.
- Check in at the gate early and remind the attendant of your allergies. You can request to board early to ensure the allergic person’s seat is clean. PlaneSheets seat covers are available for your protection.
- Eat only safe food brought from home.
Eating Far Away from Home
- Plan your meals ahead of time, keeping in mind the cooking facilities at your destination.
- Locate grocery stores in your destination and call to ask the manager if they carry specific products that will be needed.
- Look up national natural food stores for specialty products: Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, or food co-ops
- If visiting family/friends, ship non-perishable foods to them before your trip.
- Buy extra foods to share with friends/family on vacation with you.
- Beware that even common mainstream food products can have varying ingredients in different parts of the U.S.
- Check the restaurant resource sites listed above in "Eating Out".
- Be prepared with cooking utensils and travel food storage packs. Nutrition for Your Condition
- Get food allergy terms translated into other languages at Food-Info.
- Some hotels offer a “Green Room” (all bedding and shower curtain changed, other deeper cleaning)
- Often microwaves and small refrigerators are available to be put in your hotel room for special circumstances, even if not usually a part of the room.
- Know the address of your hotel, in case of a medical emergency and 911 call.
Staying with Friends and Family
- Communicate with friends/family clearly about your family’s allergy needs. (Decide on your non-negotiable needs ahead of time)
- Request a clean spot in the kitchen that is used only to prepare the allergic traveler’s food while you’re there.
- Provide a plastic tub/container to keep all of your safe food separate during your stay.
- Consider planning and preparing safe meals for everyone involved.
- Ask ahead of time about local restaurants that may be accommodating.
- Ask about local grocery stores or natural food stores. Friends/family might be willing to visit those stores and hunt for specific food products needed.
- Discuss the possible activities for your stay. Trouble-shoot those ahead of time.
- Use an allergy-alert product to remind family/friends about your child’s allergies.