Web Exclusive

Tips for Traveling With Food Allergies

Many of your clients will begin traveling over the Memorial Day weekend and planning summer vacations. And while these trips will mean fun and relaxation for most of them, clients who have celiac disease and other food allergies and intolerances may experience anxiety while eating out.

To help clients feel more comfortable about traveling with food allergies and intolerances, share these tips:

Go online. Suggest clients go online and search for restaurants that cater to people with food allergies. Read their menus, ingredient lists, and allergen statements.

Be prepared. Recommend patients travel with EpiPens, Benadryl, or other allergy medications in case they have an allergic reaction. They should plan where to go for medical help in their destination city and along the way. Even restaurants with the best intentions and food allergy protocols occasionally can have a mishap, so it’s best to be prepared.

Ask open-ended questions. Advise clients to ask about ingredient lists, restaurant procedures for avoiding cross-contamination, and staff communication protocols—but in a way that inspires ongoing dialogue. If a client is allergic to peanuts, suggest they ask “What type of oil is used in the fryer?” instead of “Are the French fries cooked in peanut oil?” Asking open-ended questions forces the server to ask the chef about any specific unknowns and removes the guesswork. Clients will feel more comfortable making decisions based on the answers.

Read ingredient lists and labels. Since clients and their family members with food allergies are accustomed to reading ingredient labels to avoid products containing their allergy triggers, encourage them to do the same in restaurants. They can determine whether or not the sauces, breads, and other foods are allergen free. If the restaurant staff doesn't offer to show the ingredient lists and labels, suggest clients ask to see them.

Avoid restaurant buffets. Tell clients that while foods may not be cooked with peanuts, dairy, eggs, gluten, or other allergy triggers, they easily can be cross-contaminated with other items or utensils. Their best bet is to avoid buffets altogether and politely ask the restaurant staff if they can prepare a separate meal that's free of food allergens.

Remain vigilant. A client’s favorite local restaurant may be terrific about accommodating for food allergies, but he or she shouldn’t assume that another restaurant that’s part of the same chain will cater to their needs. Reason: Chain restaurants often have different owners and managers at each location, and they each may have a different level of food allergy knowledge, experience, and training.

Tap the food allergy community for advice. Discussions on food allergy blogs and social media sites contain helpful information from the food allergy community. These forums offer great tips, advice, and lessons learned about traveling with food allergies. Clients can visit www.facebook.com/allergyeats and www.allergyeats.com/blog.

Trust your instincts. Recommend clients ask themselves this question: “Does the restaurant's server, manager, and chef sound confident and knowledgeable about how to handle special meal preparations?” If not, they should politely leave and find another restaurant.

— Source: AllergyEats.com