Tips for Flying with Severe Allergies
Renting a vacation home is an excellent idea if you or one of your family members have severe allergies, whether they are trigged by animals, foods, or other allergens. You’ll have more control there than in a hotel. Still, you’ll have to get there, and traveling by plane may be your best bet. Flying with severe allergies does take extra planning, though, and a bit of research. Here are tips for keeping allergy sufferers safer in the air:
For All Allergies:
- Discuss your travel plans with your doctor or allergist before you go. Your own healthcare professional can give you specific tips personalized for your family’s allergy sufferer and his or her exact triggers. Explain all of your plans — where you’ll be staying, what you’ll be doing, and how you’ll get there — and ask for advice and medication for preventing allergy attacks. Also get emergency contact information and medication (such as an Epi-Pen and antihistamines) in case of an in-flight allergy attack. Airport security does allow such medications in your carry on bags.
- Tell the airline reservation agent, gate agent, and flight attendants about the allergy. People with severe allergies fly major airlines all the time, and the airlines are prepared to help keep you and your family safe. Most airlines have specific policies for helping their passengers deal with animal allergies and common food allergies (nut allergies, for example) during the flight. Their staff is there to help you. Tell them your needs and ask what they can do for you.
For Pet Allergies:
- Ask whether pets or service animals will be in the cabin during your flight. Many airlines allow passengers to bring small pets in carriers into the plane’s cabin with them. A few major airlines don’t. You may prefer to fly with an airline that doesn’t allow pets. Still, service animals (such as seeing eye dogs) are allowed on all flights. Ask when you reserve the flight, and again the day you travel, whether animals will be in the cabin.
- Know that you can’t eliminate the possibility of dander on the plane. This helpful post from the Federal Aviation Administration explains the FAA’s rules about animals on planes, and how they affect travelers with allergies. Again, airlines are required by law to let service animals ride with the people they help. The FAA also points out that, even if there will be no animals present on the flight, some passengers flying with you may have pet dander on their clothes. If the allergy is so severe that dander on fellow passengers will cause a reaction, be sure to bring emergency medication, or consider driving to your destination instead.
For Food Allergies:
- Pack your own food. Although airport security limits the amounts of gels and liquids you can bring on board, most solid foods are allowed. You can also bring empty water bottles through security, then fill them at an airport drinking fountain or bathroom sink before you board.
- Wipe down your family’s seats and tray tables. This will limit the chance of contact allergy reactions.
- Fly as early in the day as you can. Airplanes are not thoroughly cleaned between flights, but they are cleaned each morning. Flying early can reduce the risk of allergens in your seating area.
- Know that there are no nut-free or otherwise allergen-free flights. You can ask around and choose an airline that does not serve foods containing your allergen, but the airlines can’t control what other passengers bring on with them. If another passenger bringing the allergen on board could cause a life-threatening or very serious reaction, it may be best for you to drive to your destination, instead.
- Get more advice from fellow parents and allergy experts. There is much more good advice available in these posts from the Food Allergy Initiative,Delicious Baby,Travels with Children, and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.