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Traveling with food allergies
If you’re one of the millions of people on a restricted diet, you’re probably suffering from added stress while traveling away from home. It may be easy to control what the crew serves on your business jet (makeup artist Bobbi Brown told us they always get her special order of unsweetened lemonade and rice crackers exactly right), but finding something without gluten in Munich is another story.
The Food Allergy Initiative has an easy-to-read guide (www.faiusa.org) that breaks down allergies by food category (peanuts, wheat, egg, etc.) and gives tips on how to navigate them. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (www.celiaccentral.org) is an excellent resource for those with this autoimmune disease and provides printable guides for shopping for gluten-free energy bars and other travel-friendly snacks. Other useful websites include The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN, (www.foodallergy.org); Allergy Eats (www.allergyeats.com), which contains reviews of U.S. restaurants that cater to allergy sufferers; and Kids with Food Allergies (www.kidswithfoodallergies.com).
Smartphone apps offer a great resource as well. With a $4.99 iPhone app called Allergy Talk by Fooducate, for example, you can scan a grocery item to see whether it contains ingredients you need to avoid. GlutenFreed, a free iPhone app, uses the device’s GPS capabilities to find nearby restaurants with gluten-free options. GF Card, another free iPhone app, generates explanations of your dietary needs in dozens of languages that you can show to your restaurant servers.
FAAN stresses to travelers the importance of wearing a medical ID bracelet, researching in advance the closest urgent-care medical facilities (and whether they take insurance) and packing enough snack foods for times when other suitable options may not be readily available. FAAN also recommends that anyone with severe allergies perform visual inspections upon arrival at their hotels, citing the example of several people with peanut allergies who discovered a few stray nuts in their rooms.
And don’t forget your epinephrine, especially if you have a life-threatening allergy. The most important thing to remember is that if you are ever in doubt, use your Epi Pen, according to David S. Mazza, M.D., an allergy and asthma specialist in New York City. “There is a tremendous amount of fear associated with using this,” Mazza added, “but if you look at cases where people have died from food allergies the most common mistake is waiting too long to use the Epi Pen.”