For anyone who suffers from a severe food allergy, you give strict attention to the ingredients in your kitchen and are on guard whenever you eat at a restaurant or friend’s house for dinner. It’s habitual, and to avoid a severe allergic reaction, illness and even hospitalization, you’ve learned to be cautious with every morsel that passes by your lips. If you and your family are traveling on an Asian or Caribbean cruise, for example, you have less control over your menu options and may be more susceptible to crossing ill-fated paths with your nutritional nemesis.
As you salivate over buffet tables and peruse dinner menus while out at sea, keep the following tips in mind:
Whether you’ve been living with your food allergy for years or you continually watch out for your child’s allergy, traveling and vacationing doesn’t have to be a fearful or stressful experience. As you pack and prepare for your trip, make sure to have auto-injectable epinephrine or specific medications on hand and easily accessible. Keep medication in original packing. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, epinephrine can reverse the life-threatening symptoms of food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish or crustacean shellfish. ACAAI recommends having two doses available because the severe reaction may reoccur. Use epinephrine at the onset of any symptoms, such as shortness of breath, tightness in the throat or hives. Prior to your trip, speak with your allergist about writing out a treatment plan that notes when and how medications should be administered during an emergency.
Prepping for an Emergency
The safest preparation includes having medical contacts available and communicating with the cruise line.
- Have emergency contact information on hand. Keep a list of medical physicians whom you can call during an emergency or to ask a question. Include important medical documentation as well.
- Let the ship personnel know about the food allergy. Research the level of medical care, facilities and qualified staff that are on board the cruise ship. According to EverydayHealth.com, don’t be afraid to ask the cruise line about their health emergency protocols and medical expertise. Medical-evacuation insurance may also be a good idea while preparing for the worst scenario.
Preparing for Language Barriers
Education.com recommends carrying a card that clarifies what types of food cannot be eaten. Since your cruise will make stops in foreign cities and villages, learn a few words in the native language ahead of time to express to a server or chef details about the food allergy. Learning to read and recognize an ingredient on food packaging can be a good safety measure while traveling.
Be forward with concerns and questions, from inquiring about the on-board medical provisions to asking about ingredients in the food and menu items. The health and safety of passengers is top priority for a cruise ship. Personnel is usually willing to make accommodations and provide as much information as possible.
Guest Author: Debbie Keene
Debbie is a physician and health writer who lives in Nebraska.
Photo by gailf548.