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Allergy Travel Traps

Navigating airlines, hotels and restaurants on vacation can be dangerous with allergies!

July 1, 2008

While traveling to San Diego for a business meeting, I brought my son’s laptop, hoping to get some time to work on the site. As I was reviewing some of the medical information on peanut allergies, I began to think of all the allergy traps that were in front of me. Walking down the aisle was a soldier with a gigantic German Shepard who had his own seat, not in a crate, but right there next to his owner. Another woman had her toy dog in a small crate tucked just behind me. I am highly allergic to dogs, and my eyes were itchy and nose stuffed, but thankfully, I was not too uncomfortable. My son, on the other hand, would have potentially been exposed to his worst allergen, and had he been on this flight, I would have considered catching another plane. The flight was 5 ½ hours from the East to West Coast. There would have been no time to land if an epi-pen would have had to be administered.

Further observation made me very aware of what exactly the airline served for a snack - pretzels. For a moment I was relieved. However, the pretzel manufacturer also made nut products in the same facility. What a hazard and disappointment. We don’t have nut allergies, but many of our friends do. This flight was a death trap for anyone with life-threatening allergies.

As we arrive at our hotel, I am relieved that there are no pets allowed in our hotel. We had once stayed at a hotel only to find a large dog coming out of the room next to us and riding the elevator down to the lobby. The lady cheerfully said, “Don’t worry, he won’t bite” as all dog owners politely do, but that was the least of our worries. Our biggest worry was that our son would have a severe life threatening allergic reaction in the hotel room because an employee or hotel guest bent the rules. Pet dander protein can cause a reaction a year after being shed, and fur can get into the air conditioning vents and travel throughout the entire hotel. Pet owners believe that their pets are their “family” but worry little about the allergies that a lot of us suffer with. What bothers me the most is the false idea that there are non-allergic dogs. I’ve yet to meet a dog with no saliva.

When traveling it’s not just the unexpected accident that parents of children with life threatening allergies worry about, it is the allergic accident that could have been prevented. Airlines should not allow pets in or under seats, they should be safely stowed in their own cages below the compartment, and airlines should never serve nuts or products made in nut facilities on a plane. It is just careless.

Until hotels and airlines make serious efforts to ensure that guests with severe allergies are accommodated, people will have to be extra vigilant when traveling. The only one looking out for your safety and that of your family is you. The best we can do is to offer you allergy advice and policies that we have found on our pages. If you have ideas and experiences to share, we’d love to hear from you in our travel forum.

Note: Before you travel or dine out, check out hundreds of restaurant, hotel, and airline allergy policies on our site. Whether it is a food allergy or asthma concern, these policies will guide you to the healthier choice.

Discuss in the Project Allergy Forum