There are a few ways to alleviate some of the travel concern both for the allergic traveler and for the allergic traveler’s parents.
In my opinion, the easiest way to minimize that concern is by using allergy cards.
What’s an allergy card?
Great question, astute reader.
An allergy card is something that fits into your wallet, purse, backpack, or pocket that you can show anyone handling your food. Whether that is your waiter, chef, street food cook, friendly aisle goer at the market, concierge, physician, or anyone really. These cards might just become your best friend.
I like to carry both translation cards for the countries I’ll be traveling to and image cards. The reason for this is because of literacy. You might not know the real literacy rate of the people in the places you’re traveling to before you get there. That’s why I think it’s best to be prepared for both a literate and illiterate scenario.
By showing a photo of your allergen along with a written alert, you are more likely to ensure a more complete and safer communication.
Remember to carry two copies of your cards. That way if you lose one, you’ll still have a backup handy!
Here are three companies that provide allergy cards:
Allergy Translation offers cards in 43 languages. While their translations are generally set, you can customize which allergens you want added onto your cards and get them delivered right to your inbox. That means as soon as you pay your $8/card, you will be able to print out and laminate as many as you want. They also have free printable picture cards.
Select Wisely offers cards and translations in more than 60 languages. That means that if your specific allergen isn’t offered in one of their prepared cards, you can order a tailored translation for your needs. Very important for those allergic travelers with specific needs. They also provide translated doctor’s letters for auto-injectors.
Dietary Card offers four categories of translation cards: food intolerance/sensitivity cards, gluten-free/ celiac cards, life-threatening food allergy cards, and no nuts cards. They will deliver cards by mail in their standard or customized translations. They offer these translations in 18 different languages.
And don’t forget to do your research! If you’re traveling, for example, to Northern Vietnam, you might want to carry both Vietnamese and Chinese cards as some people in the north speak Chinese.
Also, if you know your general destinations before you fly, look up the local hospitals and applicable phone numbers. Keep that information handy as well.
Make sure to consider little things like that before you travel.
And of course I would be neglecting my inner voice if I didn’t say this:
No matter the severity of your allergy, always pay attention to where you are and listen to your gut instinct. If you show your card to the chef and something doesn’t feel quite right, walk away!
It’s ok to say thanks, but no thanks and move right along. Nothing is more important than your health – especially while traveling.