The key to preparing for a holiday with an allergic child is to plan ahead and develop an individual risk management plan to meet the needs of the infant or child. This includes avoidance strategies to reduce the risk of accidental exposure, as well as a well thought out management plan in case a child has an allergic reaction whilst on holiday.
Some careful thought and forward planning can help to reduce anxiety for both parents and children and help ensure that a holiday is enjoyable. The details and level of planning will depend on the individual child and their allergy and will be influenced by other factors including multiple allergies, the mode of transport, the destination and the duration of both the journey and the holiday.
Preparedness and planning
Some children have co-existing allergic conditions, for example asthma and a food allergy, which may require multiple medications. It is important to review medication well in advance as there may be a need to see a GP or Pharmacist for additional supplies. Anticipating ‘what if’s’ is important, for example, luggage going missing or the need to use a frequent or higher dose of medication, such as antihistamines or asthma inhalers, during the holiday. So planning how much to take and how to carry medication is a valuable element of a risk minimisation plan.
Before a holiday all medications should be checked to ensure that they are in date and devices for asthma (spacers/asthma inhalers) should also be checked to make sure they are in good working order. Medication should be kept in its original packing so it is clearly identifiable to others and the product and dosage information can easily be referred to.
It is important that allergy medication is accessible during all points of the holiday journey, particularly if multiple modes of transport are involved. Having a designated place that is communicated to all family members is one way. Allergy medication, including adrenaline auto injectors, should always be carried in hand luggage and easily accessible in flight (not stored in the overhead locker). The luggage hold of an aircraft is not a suitable place for medication. Medication and devices may be damaged if not handled carefully, and should not be exposed to extreme temperatures.
If a child has been prescribed an adrenaline auto injector, for example an Epi-Pen or other device containing the emergency medicine adrenaline, it is advisable to take a copy of a child’s Allergy Action Plan which provides a clear set of written instructions on their individual allergy, the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and the medication required. An Allergy Action Plan should be completed by a GP or allergy specialist when an adrenaline auto injector is prescribed. Communication from the initial planning and booking through to arrival at the holiday destination is essential.
The transport provider(s) should be informed of a child’s food allergy at the time of enquiry and before booking. This provides the opportunity for parents to ask questions on suitability of location, ability to accommodate dietary requirements, proximity to medical help etc.
Eating out with a food allergy
Eating out with a food allergic child can cause real anxiety. However there are some simple strategies that can help to ensure that this is a safe and enjoyable part of a holiday.
- Communicate clearly a child’s food allergy and check with the food provider that they are able to accommodate this
- Ensure that a child’s allergy is communicated not only to the service staff but also to the person preparing or cooking the food
- A useful tool in non-English speaking countries is a translation card (credit card sized card) that translates the food(s) to which a child is allergic into the local language. These are very useful way to communicate with food service staff in their own language
- For advice on travelling with an infant requiring specialist formula feeds because of cow’s milk allergy please see Allergy UK’s website/factsheet on Travelling with an allergic infant.
Three top tips for travelling with an allergic child
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Never assume that a child’s allergy needs have been passed on to everyone who needs to know
- Pack some ‘safe snacks’ or a meal should there be any delay in travel
- Keep emergency medications always at hand . Accidental exposures cannot always be predicted.
Reducing the risk of bites and stings
- Stings and bites often occur on bare feet – avoid walking barefoot
- Bees and wasps are attracted to brightly coloured things – avoid brightly coloured clothes
- Do not wear perfume or strongly scented body products
- Avoid drinking from enclosed containers.
Sun sensitivity: Reducing exposure
• Stay out of the sun during peak times and sit in the shade or under cover where possible
• Clothes with a high neck and long sleeves versus a ‘v’ or scoop neck will offer greater coverage for sensitive skin
• Wear a hat with a wide brim and wraparound sunglasses to minimise exposure to the head.
Please visit www.allergyuk.org for further information on all aspects of allergy.