Flying with Food Allergies: Safety Tips

May 2015

As we prepare for summer, travel plans for food allergic individuals can be particularly daunting.

In this post, Lianne Mandelbaum — food allergy writer and founder of the No Nut Traveler — shares valuable safety tips on flying with food allergies. After an unsettling experience boarding a flight with her peanut-allergic son, Lianne has become a leading advocate for the implementation of airline safety measures to protect food allergic passengers. Below are her tips on mitigating the risks of flying with food allergies.

Before you book your flight

Talk to your physician about any travel concerns and request a letter that confirms a food allergy diagnosis and specifically states the need to carry medications and/or food.

Read your airline's allergy policy. Make a copy of it and make sure to bring it with you when you travel.

Call the airline to review the policy & ask any questions. Take notes. Some airlines make announcements and create buffer zones. Some may comply with your request to suspend serving your allergen for your flight.

Select carefully the time of day you travel. Airplanes are usually cleaned thoroughly at the end of the day. Try to book the first flight of the day and when possible book a direct flight so you are not dealing with different planes and crews.

Inform the reservation agent of your allergy and ask that it be documented and forwarded to the flight crew and gate agent.

Renew your medications and make sure to keep them in the original packaging, labeled with your name by your pharmacy. Bring at least 2 auto injectors when flying.

The day of travel

Remember to bring your medications (epinephrine/antihistamines), a copy of your airline policy, a letter from your MD and your signed emergency action plan. Do not place in your packed luggage or overhead storage. Keep accessible at all times!

Remind the gate agent of the severity of your/your child's allergy and if possible pre-board to clean the area. When on board remind the flight attendants as well.

Clean the seat and surrounding area including the tray table, light switches, arm rests, window shade and call buttons. Use wipes such as Clorox, not hand sanitizer. Consider using a seat cover and/or your own blanket to cover the seat.

Inform those around you and, if possible, ask for an announcement and/or buffer zone. You may want to wear a bracelet or shirt alerting others to the allergy.

Pack your own food. Bring napkins to cover the tray table or use paper plates. Always pack twice as much to allow for delays.

Avoid pillows, blankets provided by the airline. Many times they are not cleaned between flights.

Treat the flight crew with respect. They are there to help you and may not be aware of your travel concerns.

By Lianne Mandelbaum

In addition to founding the No Nut Traveler — a website with resources, advocacy tools and an airline petition drive with more than 60,000 signatures — Lianne Mandelbaum is a prolific food allergy writer. Her articles have appeared in the Huffington Post. She and her family have also been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Condé Nast Traveler and  Allergic Living, and on Fox News, ABC News and CBS. She is the recipient of the FARE 2013 Leadership Award.

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