Going Gluten-FreeJune 5, 2012

Traveling with Food Allergies

All I wanted for my 40th birthday was a weekend trip to Penn State, my alma mater, where I could show my kids a place I hold dear and spend time with some amazing friends. But traveling with a food-allergic child can be stressful. For me, that anxiety was eased with preparation, consideration and awareness.

I don't allow Joseph, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, to eat any food that is not prepared by me. So before we embarked on our 8-hour road trip, I loaded up the cooler, insulated bags and lunch boxes with safe food for my 9-year-old son. Lots of wipes, paper towels, and disposable placemats are staples. Of course, we don’t go anywhere without his medical pack containing two EpiPens, Benadryl, his inhaler and a copy of his allergy action plan. In addition when we travel, I make sure all of his daily medications have a full prescription, and I pack his nebulizer, Xopenex and two additional EpiPens that are usually kept at home.

Once I booked our feather-free suite (Joseph has asthma and environmental allergies, as well), complete with a refrigerator and microwave, it was time to plan the menu with Joseph. After all, I wanted him to enjoy his food while he's watching the rest of us sample restaurant fare. My daughter Pamela, 3, also eats only Joseph's food when we travel so that she doesn’t create an added risk for him.

I cooked and froze several entrees, enough so that both kids could get two meals out of each dish. We also packed plenty of fruit and non-perishable food, such as Enjoy Life granola that both kids like to eat for breakfast or as a snack, single-serve applesauce, Enjoy Life cookies and Green Mountain Gringo tortilla strips that made an easy snack the kids could eat plain in the car and a plate of nachos in the hotel room with a little melted Daiya cheddar and mozzarella. Earlier, I had frozen some cupcakes and cake slices that we’d made for celebrations during the previous month, so the kids could have special treats, as well.

But the biggest treat for them was spending time with their friends. Before the trip, my friend Michele had asked what snacks would be OK for her kids to eat near Joseph and what they could do to make him safe. I asked her just to avoid anything with peanuts, peanut butter or tree nuts and requested that everyone wash their hands after meals. Not only did Michele and her kids comply with these requests, they did so without mentioning it. Each time we stopped to eat at a restaurant, I wiped Joseph's table area and chair and placed his paper placemat in front of him. As he pulled his own plastic cutlery, juice box or water bottle and safe food out of his lunch box, the happy chatter of his friends continued. There were no disparaging comments about what Joseph couldn't eat or begrudging attitudes about washing their hands.

This meant the world to me. The consideration and kindness of these friends made it possible for Joseph to just be a kid and enjoy himself, instead of being singled out or anxious because of his allergies.

My kids had a blast hanging out with Michele's kids. Whether they were checking out footballs at the Penn State All-Sports Museum, posing by the Joe Paterno statue, having water battles in the hotel pool or playing miniature golf, Joseph was just one of the gang.

When it comes to food allergies and celiac disease, everyone has different comfort levels about what is safe and what works for them. As the summer travel season heats up, what steps do you take to travel and have fun with your special diet?

Comments (5)

Most essential safety net when traveling with food allergies is to carry allergy free snacks and because, unfortunately accidents do happen, be prepared. "Must have" when traveling with food allergies: Self carry epipen carriers so kids, tens and adults self carry their life saving epipens on them at all times.

A "must have" for food allergic kids, teens and adults Epipen leg holster and/or undergarment Epipen waist band. Check this athletic concealed epipen carriers at www.omaxcare.com

Posted by: Mc@omaxcare.com | December 10, 2012 3:34 AM    Report this comment

My husband Ron and I took a 'food sensitivity' blood test through "AlCat" and found that we both have some severe, moderate, and mild food intolerances. Included in that was a SEVERE intolerance to gluten/gliadin. This test is able to measure things before you become celiac. What it has meant was a complete overhaul of how we eat when we are out. If a restaurant will not modify a meal for us, we will move on. There are many restaurants out there that understand and go out of their way to help.

Just as an aside: after taking this test (and a few others), I don't understand how someone could possibly know what they are 'allergic' to. I would NEVER have known that my body treats things like tomato, OKRA, vanilla, veal, cinnamon, oregano...(there are more!) as poison!!! All I knew was that I was having a LOT of different symptoms that even the doctors couldn't figure out. Gluten was the major one that seemed to have 'fixed' things for me (and my husband, who was having severe atrial fibrillation). We ate well before, but never added in the gluten factor...sure glad we too this test to know for sure!!

Posted by: Unknown | June 10, 2012 10:16 PM    Report this comment

Our 14-year old daughter has a gluten sensitivity, but is also sensitive to caramel coloring, MSG, and high fructose corn syrup. Travel and eating out seem pretty impossible, but she is getting used to packing her own cooler with safe foods. Next week our family of 7 will be vacationing, and my only request for accommodations was a place with a kitchen so I can prepare safe meals for her. (Her 17-year old sister has a peanut/tree nut allergy, so our meals are creative!) We will be near shopping and grocery stores, but I still plan to bring along the special sauces, toppings, condiments, and mixes that are her favorites so I don't have to scour the stores for those. I am thankful she is not allergic to eggs and dairy. We will eat out some, but she can eat ahead of time, or bring along a snack. As always, READ LABELS, ask questions of wait staff, and if someone doesn't "get it" we will not stay. The meals I prepare will include rice/potatoes and chicken/beef, gf pancakes/eggs, and tacos (with Fritos). Also, Snickers are her friend!

Posted by: Sandy C | June 7, 2012 10:30 AM    Report this comment

I just ended up in the hospital a couple of days ago with something entirely unrelated but at the time I was very confused and disoriented. Questions and questions kept getting asked of me in the emergency room and I couldn't seem to remember all the answers. When asked about allergies (I avoid gluten, dairy, soy, caffeine, dyes and all sweeteners) I just couldn't get the list put together anymore. It showed me I really wasn't as prepared for an emergency as I have thought I was. And believe me, I work every day with people in just situations like this. So, even though I have always thought I have taken care of the essentials, obviously I was mistaken. This is one area even I was not well enough prepared. For some help, depending on your allergy, check at www.allergyfreeandsugarfreesnacks.com to help get yourself ready for your allergen in case an emergency arises and you aren't able to communicate your situation.

Posted by: Kathi R | June 7, 2012 9:14 AM    Report this comment

In the couple of years after I was diagnosed with Ceilac disease we didn't travel much. Not because I was nervous, but that's just the way it worked out. This year is our 30th wedding aniversary, and we are planing a three-week trip to France. I am finding though that I am planning this trip the same way I plan a weekend away: We don't have a language barrier - so this will be easier for me than for most others) 1. lots of research into the availability of gluten-free products and restaurants at our destination 2. planning as many 'picnics' as possible based on our travel plans. This allows me to shop at wonderful local markets for fresh fruit and veg, the butcher for meats and the gorcer for yogurt. This allows us to stay away from 'dangerous' places like bakeries. 3. bringing a selection of 'safe' snacks with me to fill in any gaps - enough for the first few days until I get more comfortable with local options.

Posted by: Catherine K | June 6, 2012 12:09 PM    Report this comment

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