The prospect of exploring new lands during summer gives most people an adrenaline rush but I’m more concerned about the adrenaline in my EpiPen, an auto injector that shoots the drug into my body if I have a severe allergic reaction.
I’m one of thousands of Brits who suffer from severe anaphylaxis to nuts.
I’ve been hospitalised with anaphylactic shock several times after unwittingly eating food abroad with traces of nut.
So when I decided to move to Germany to study last year, I launched an Instagram @nutfrei about travelling with allergy anxiety.
Since then I’ve been inundated with messages from around the world from other allergy sufferers nervous about travelling.
Those with food allergies (around two million people in the UK) always have to remain vigilant. But it’s equally important not to let this fear stop you from enjoying your holiday. Try my hacks for a safe holiday…
If a hotel is particularly busy during the summer, this could mean they are not as careful with their handling of allergens in the kitchen. Self-catered holidays put you in control of the preparation of your food and allow you to create a ‘safe’ area.
Be prepared not to eat. If you go to dinner and don’t feel a restaurant is taking your allergy seriously, don’t eat. It’s safer to go back to base and tuck into a selection of safe snacks you’ve prepared earlier.
When I stay in a hotel, I always make sure to have a mini fridge in the room which I can fill with emergency nut-free food.
Beware buffet breakfasts
Although incredibly tempting and delicious, be careful of buffet breakfasts and avoid if necessary. There can be high levels of cross-contamination, especially if the hotel is using the same spoons to serve different dishes.
If you’re eating at a hotel buffet, talk to staff beforehand. They can arrange for you to be the first to serve yourself at breakfast, to lower the risk of cross-contamination. If in doubt, go for sealed yoghurt pots.
The same caution goes for evening bar nibbles. Never eat snacks from a bowl because nuts may have been served before those olives were loaded on.
Always carry allergy cards translated into the language of the country you’re visiting, which you can show to restaurant staff before you eat.
There are also loads of allergy apps for your phone if you don’t want to carry a physical card with you. Try Equal Eats, Peanut Allergy and Allergy Translate.
Familiar foods can be deadly
Just because the chocolate bar you eat at home is OK for your allergens, doesn’t mean it’s safe abroad.
Famous brands vary their ingredients and often almond can be substituted for cheaper peanut in other countries, so check the packaging.
The Google translate photo feature on the app allows you to take a photo of the ingredients and it translates it for you.
Check sun creams
Scan sun creams, shampoos and body washes you buy abroad – tree nut oils are common, with extracts such as almond or shea nut butter that can spark reactions.