Allergies can be difficult to deal with, especially when one finds themself in an unfamiliar country or destination. Many countries do not consider certain spices, nuts, or fruits to be allergens, which endangers all customers with food allergies. Here are my tips and tricks for navigating food allergies while traveling in order to stay safe.
I have anaphylactic peanut and tree nut allergies, which are constantly undermined or not taken seriously by patisseries, restaurants, and especially street food vendors. After a long day of walking in sunny Italy, my family and I decided to have some croissants at a local bakery. When we asked about allergen information in the bakery’s goods, they pointed at a cake labeled “Pistachio Delight” and declared that the item had no nuts whatsoever in it while asking us to hurry so the next customer could order. I had similar experiences in much of Europe and Asia. A common theme I found was that foods we consider allergens in America are not always considered allergens in other countries. In fact, many restaurant workers and waiters were confused as to what an allergy was; they thought we were expressing a preference rather than a true medical condition.
This unfamiliarity with food allergies is extremely dangerous for people with food allergies when traveling and can cause severe and even fatal reactions. One way I learned to cope with this unfamiliarity was by eating at restaurant chains that originated in my home country, the United States, due to my familiarity with U.S. restaurant chains, their menu items, and the language spoken in these restaurants. I was able to look up the allergens present in these multinational corporate chains on their websites and confirm that the meals were safe for my consumption. If you are traveling with food allergies, it is always safest to attend restaurants where the chefs and waiters speak languages you are familiar with or embark on a tour with a reliable tour guide who can speak to the restaurant workers in their native tongue, which can ensure your safety while traveling.
Another important tip for people traveling with allergies is to ensure that the people traveling with you are aware of your allergies and what to do in case of an allergic reaction. Your fellow travelers should know how and when to use your various medications for you in case you are unable to use them in an emergency. Your tour guide, if you are traveling with one, should also be aware of your allergies so they can help you communicate your dietary restrictions to restaurants or other food providers. It is also wise to know where the nearest hospital is. A local clinic may not be able to manage severe food allergy reactions, so a larger hospital with dedicated staff would be the best and safest option.
Although traveling with food allergies may seem scary, it can be a remarkable experience as long as the right precautions are taken to ensure your safety. By following these tips, you can ensure that you took the necessary precautions to protect yourself and have a wonderful, safe trip. Happy traveling!