An estimated 78 million Americans have food allergies that restrict what foods they can eat. Each year, many of them travel overseas for business trips or vacations. If you have food allergies, it is important to use strategies for preventing allergic reactions from ruining your trip.

Henry DeLozier, a consultant who frequently meets clients abroad, learns how to explain his allergy in the local language before traveling. He also has a few personal rules for avoiding an allergic reaction. “Eat only what you recognize as safe, and, if you have doubt, don’t eat it,” he says.

Frequent business traveler Ryan Endress, who’s from Chicago, takes a similar approach: Once arriving to his destination, he asks a hotel employee to write a statement in the local language that he cannot eat shellfish. He can then show this piece of paper at restaurants. He also questions food servers. “I’ve learned that just because it’s not listed on the menu doesn’t mean it’s not in the food,” he explained.

Education, Preparation, Communication

Education, preparation, and communication are essential for traveling safely and avoiding allergens. Before traveling, learn which ingredients and cooking techniques are often used in dishes served in your destination country. Learn where allergen may be hidden in foods you may come across. For example, soy sauce commonly contains gluten and wheat.

Before your trip, don’t forget to prepare to eat safely. Order allergen-free airline meals, bring snacks that are safe to eat, and don’t forget your EpiPen to treat accidental allergic reactions.

Once you get there, communication is key. Tell airlines, hotels, and restaurants about your food needs. If you’re traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language, get a mobile translation app for your phone, or bring a pocket translator or dictionary to help you convey your needs.

Do you have any other tips to share for traveling safely with food allergies?

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