Traveling with Children with Allergies Over the Holidays

Traveling over the holidays is stressful enough, but if your child has food allergies, planning ahead with a solid strategy will help you enjoy the holidays more. Here are some tips to survive travel, in keeping with the current recommendations of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

BEFORE YOU GET ON THE PLANE, THERE ARE SOME THINGS PARENTS SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHEN PRE-BOARDING WITH CHILDREN WITH FOOD ALLERGIES…

Pre-boarding with children with food allergies is very important. The most common reason kids have reactions on planes is that their tray tables or armrests have food residue on them that, and making contact with their mouth or eyes, could potentially cause a reaction. Hence, by pre-boarding, a parent can wash their kid’s armrests and tray tables with a soap-laced paper towel brought on board in a baggie (research has shown that alcohol or antibacterial wipes do NOT remove allergen residue) and not fear accidental contact with an allergen in your child’s immediate vicinity.

 

IF YOUR CHILD HAS FOOD ALLERGIES SHOULD YOU ASK THE AIRLINE NOT TO SERVE THAT ITEM?

It’s reasonable to call the airline ahead of time to inquire what snacks are served on board. That way, you can prepare by bringing safe snacks for your child (and perhaps a passenger adjacent to you).

Asking an airline to stop serving peanuts serves no purpose. Peanut protein weighs a lot and is embedded in the flooring and seat cushions of all airlines, so stopping service doesn’t eliminate risk – in fact, there is no evidence to suggest that a passenger opening peanuts a row or 2 from the victim does anything harmful. What can help is taking the first flight in the morning – presuming cleaning of the plane and cushions occurred overnight, the plane is at its cleanest early in the day. Washing the tray tables and arm rests, is the best strategy for reducing direct contact and evidence shows that peanut/allergen residue is effectively removed with this strategy.

If you are on a flight that is serving meals and your child is allergic to fish or shellfish, and fish is being served, some evidence shows that the light weight airborne fish protein may cause a reaction, so you might want to consider a flight that doesn’t serve fish, and make sure you bring on a safe meal for your child.

 

WHAT SHOULD I BRING ON BOARD? WILL THE AIRLINE HAVE AN EPINEPHRINE INJECTOR?

Although many airlines now stock epinephrine, there is no guarantee. It is best to bring TWO doses on board. Why? If your child suffers a severe reaction, 2 doses may be needed to stabilize your child until the plane can land safely. Make sure your epinephrine is carried on you, not in the overhead bin. Seconds count in an emergency.

 

WHAT DO I DO ONCE AT MY DESTINATION?

Make sure you inform family and friends, food servers and chefs, about your child’s food allergies, and the importance of avoiding cross contact, or preparing dishes in the same pan where an allergen has been. If you are staying in a hotel room, see if you can get a room with a kitchenette or microwave, so you can prepare safe snacks or even meals, if you can’t find a reliable restaurant. HOW CAN YOU FIND ONE? There’s actually a website called www.allergyeats.com that has vetted many restaurants across the US and abroad, for those suffering with food allergies. If eating at restaurants, on cruise ships, or large venues, avoid the buffet – there’s just too much potential for cross contact or contamination with allergens. Best to order off the menus so you have as much control over food safety.

Scope out the local emergency room and/or children’s hospital so if there is an emergency, you know where to go. Check with your pharmacy to make sure that prescriptions can be filled at your destination either at another branch or affiliate. Make sure you have those epinephrine injectors for the return trip as well.

Enjoy the holiday season and if you want more information you can go to www.foodallergyawareness.org or www.fare.org – both are advocacy organizations offering support and information for those with food allergies.

 

Happy travel to you and your family this holiday season.

 

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About Dr. JJ Levenstein

Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and in 2012 retired from her thriving private pediatric practice in Encino, California. She served on the staff of CHLA and Encino Tarzana Hospitals for 20 years and was consistently voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2003 through 2012. Drawing from her experience as a pediatrician and mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, makers of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms. She serves on the board of United Cerebral Palsy LA, is an active writer and sits on the advisory boards of several child-centered websites. She is an accomplished chef and completed culinary school in 2013! She has had a lifelong interest in child nutrition and all things related to preventive health.

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