It’s allergy awareness week and this year it’s all about travel. Aars and I have been very blessed to be able to travel a lot inspite of his severe food and environmental allergies, anaphylaxis and EoE…
Travel has always been important to me and it has become important to him too. Every time we have done an adventure away from home it’s boosted Aars confidence hugely. It underlines the “Can Do!” attitude we have, that we refuse to allow anaphylaxis and allergies to limit and hinder Aars experience of life. We can manage allergies away from home, just as we do at home and refuse to let them define who he is or what he can do.
Travelling with allergies and anaphylaxis is unique to every family. There is no ONE WAY to do it. No fix-all solution exists. There is no definitive list.
Every child is different and every parent is too. You know what your childs vulnerabilities are, you know what your child enjoys eating and what is safe practice for your child at home. These safe practices remain the same when you go on holiday. So you know better than anyone else how to keep your child safe whilst on an adventure. You need a bit of daring and a bit of confidence to brave the wild world. I have met with parents who have struggled with the idea of renting a holiday home in the next county, because they are stressed about allergies.
Sometimes camping in the garden is the first step, then camping in a relatives garden… baby steps, learning and adapting as you go and growing in confidence that you can do this!
I think it’s very important that you start off by going somewhere and doing things that YOU feel comfortable and confident doing. Start small and as you realise your child will not only survive but thrive, your confidence will grow and your comfort zone will expand. Don’t do something that is going to stress you out – it is meant to be a holiday and a fun/happy adventure for you too!
Preparation is key. It goes without saying – but just incase – ALWAYS take ALL the meds your child MIGHT need in your carry-on luggage. We always have at least 4 x AAIs with us, a bottle of antihistamine in each of our carry on luggage. Always stick to your agreed care plan.
You have to be prepared to create a safe cooking environment for your child – a home away from home. Take everything you need including the kitchen sink if you need to! (We have a collapsable washing up bowl from Halfords – so we can wash up his utensils without risk of cross-contamination)
Allergies, EoE, anaphylaxis… all of these things have morphed and changed for us over the years. Which means that our approach to travel has to change and morph too. I always say to Aars that adaptability is key to survival. It’s one of our truths. I think it is especially apt when it comes to travelling with allergies. What worked for us on Aars first flight to Tunis is totally different to what works now. So as the allergies and EoE and anaphylaxis mutate and change and Aars gets older so our behaviours and approaches have to morph and change too.
I thought I would share what’s important to us. This is based on my comfort zones and my confidence.
- COMMUNICATION (friend fluent in English & local language)
- SAFE PLACE TO STORE, PREPARE, COOK & EAT FOOD
- LOCATION OF LOCAL HOSPITALS
- EMERGENCY PROCEDURES (personal and local: telephone number and key phrases)
Communication is always vital and the number 1 priority to me. When we visit North Africa and the Middle East we are always with someone who could speak both English and Arabic fluently. I know that if I had to communicate to local medics, I could through them. I grew up in the region so feel comfortable there. I knew which foods were available and what we needed to take with us to make Aars the yummy things he enjoyed eating.
When we visited more southern parts of Africa, places like Malawi where I had never been before, we stayed with friends who lived and worked there. They told us beforehand which foods were available there, so I was able to bring with us the food we wouldn’t be able to purchase whilst out there. Aars has always loved this system, as we would take a case full of ingredients for him, which over the holiday he would consume, creating an empty case with plenty of room for presents and mementos for him to bring back.
Obviously when we visited the USA we were not able to take in fresh food stuffs. We found a lot of safe foods and shops selling fresh ingredients in Malibu and California. But the following year had to hunt down a Whole Foods store in Miami to get safe fresh ingredients for Aars in Florida.
We always stay somewhere where we can store and prepare food safely – be that with friends or family in their homes, in a hotel with a kitchenette, a self-catering apartment or holiday home. I also always take tin foil, baking paper and antiseptic spray and wipes so that we can create 100% clean surfaces on and in which to cook. This is to avoid the risk of cross contamination.
Generally once we are comfortable with a new country and our new environment then we begin to venture out on our own or further afield, go on safaris, trek to Oasis. Always with someone who can speak English and the local language, always with all the meds Aars might need, always aware of the closest hospitals and the emergency procedures there, always with a good supply of safe food and water for Aars.
We have done school trips abroad; both at primary and secondary level. This has helped me appreciate the level of risk assessment we allergy-mums live with on a daily basis. We have done week long boat trips in the Bahamas and UK, we have done safari’s in Africa, camel trekked to Oasis in the desert, holidayed in the UK and Europe… we have ventured and adventured and it has been good. When things have been tough or have gone wrong it has increased our bond and our thankfulness for all the good, and we have grown stronger and more courageous as a result. When things have gone well, healthily and right it has inspired and motivated and encouraged us to venture out again and further afield. We are currently planning an escapade to Iceland.
If you have any questions or would like any advice or ideas or encouragement or help or would like to bounce ideas off another mum living with anaphylaxis, allergy and EoE I am here for you. Get in touch, I’d love to encourage you on your journey.
smiles to you as you continue your adventure through life,