Travelling with a food allergy isn’t easy: you’re faced with eating strange ingredients in stranger combinations and reliable staples of your diet at home aren’t readily available.
Without a thorough knowledge of the local language it’s easy to cheerfully munch your way through something that doesn’t agree with you.
This doesn’t mean you have to be afraid of trying new things or limit your holiday in any way. Speak to your doctor about emergency remedies and remember to put your medication, if you already have it, in your carry-on luggage so it’s within reach. Taking out the right travel insurance plan is important, as is finding out what your trigger food is called in the language of the place you’re staying.
Download a travel food card from the Allergy UK website and keep it on your person: it’ll help you order meals and if you get into serious trouble it will help a doctor find out what’s wrong with you. Don’t just rely on the information on the menu and hope you’ll recognise the word for your allergy: talk to the waiter and make sure he understands.
As a launch point, have a quick look at our handy chart of the most common allergens in the most widely-spoken European languages:
I am allergic to...
Spanish: Soy alérgico a...
French: Je suis allergique à la...
German: Ich bin allergisch gegen...
Italian: Io sono allergica al...
French: le blé
French: Ecous or ècrous (and 'noisette' for hazelnut)
Shellfish (mussels or oysters)
Spanish: Mariscos (mejillones, ostras)
French: Fruits de mer, crustacés (moules, huitres)
German: Schalentiere (Muscheln, Austern)
Italian: Frutte di Mare, mollusco (cozze, ostriche)
Even if you don’t have a severe allergy, foreign ingredients that you’re unlikely to encounter at home might cause stomach upsets or rashes. Some people, especially the elderly, can have a strong reaction to MSG, a flavour-enhancer that’s often used in Eastern cookery – and the strong spices and flavours of Indian and Mexican cookery is likely to churn international tummies.
So to begin with, eat only in moderation – small bits of solid foods – and go easy on the sauces. Drink lots and lots of water and carry with you food that you know you can eat: crackers, biscuits, apples and dried food. That way you can tide yourself over until you find a place that accommodates your needs.