REVEALED: PRECAUTIONS ALLERGY SUFFERERS SHOULD TAKE WHEN FLYING (AND WHY MORNING FLIGHTS ARE SAFER)

  • Passengers with food allergies should be extra careful when considering a flight
  • Each airline has a different allergy policy - check what it is before flying
  • Should there be laws to protect allergic passengers on flights? Vote in our poll...
  • READ MORE:  The 100ml rule and which airports have the new scanners

Flying with a food allergy can be daunting and the results of a mistake dire - as Love Island star Jack Fowler discovered after suffering from a reaction on a recent flight to Dubai

However, according to Allergy UK, 'there is no legislation to date that determines best practice for managing the needs of the food-allergic traveller'. 

Instead, every airline has its own allergy policy to protect passengers. 

This means that passengers with food allergies should be extra careful when checking and packing medication, alerting the airline and when ordering and eating meals.

Scroll down for our guide to flying with an allergy...

Before booking 

Speak to a doctor 

You should speak to a health professional to get their advice before flying. 

British Airways' food allergy advice states: 'Severe allergic reactions on board are rare, but if you suffer from a severe allergy always speak to your doctor before you book to discuss potential risks and how you can minimise becoming ill.'

Check the airline policy

Allergy UK, a charity focused on those with allergies, suggests checking if the travel provider has an allergy management policy, an option for passenger announcement, if the plane will or can be cleaned before boarding, if staff receive allergic reaction first aid training and if they can offer an allergen-free meal.

It adds: 'If you wish to know whether snacks or foods containing specific allergens are served during the flight then it is advisable to raise this question when you make contact with the airline before booking.'

Before you fly

Tell the airline and order special meals 

Firstly, you should make the airline aware of your allergy and, if you require a 'special' meal (that's an allergen-free one). Allergy UK states: 'These meals will need to be requested well before the date of travel.'

You can also bring your own food on board should you prefer this option. However, most airlines will not refrigerate or heat your food so choose shelf-stable options. 

This choice may be preferable as airlines may not be able to provide an allergen-free meal for all food allergies. BA, for example, cannot supply 'alternative meals free from sesame, tree nuts, lupin, soya, sulphites, mustard or celery'. 

Pack your medication

Make sure that you have the medication needed in case of a reaction - keep this in your cabin bag.

British Airways suggests: 'If you have been prescribed an epinephrine/adrenaline auto-injector like Epipen, Anapen, Twinject or Jext make sure you carry this with you in your hand baggage. Clearly label your medication to show who it should be administered to.'

You should double-check that your medication is not past its expiry date. 

Get a prescription letter 

"It is important that airline staff are informed of a food allergy at every opportunity"
 Allergy UK

A copy of your prescription letter, or a signed letter from a doctor, can help at security as the 100ml liquids rule does not apply to liquid medication. 

Allergy UK notes: 'Current guidance from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommends that two Adrenaline Auto-Injectors (AAIs) are prescribed, which should be available at all times.'

Write an allergy action plan 

An allergy action plan - written emergency treatment plan curated to your needs - is recommended, as is a medi-alert bracelet.

The British Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy (BSACI) has templates for adult action plans and children's action plans here.  

Tell check-in staff 

At the check-in gate, you should tell the staff of your allergy once more. Allergy UK says: 'It is important that airline staff are informed of a food allergy at every opportunity. 

'This is particularly important when checking in at the airport, boarding the flight and every time a snack or meal is offered (as it may be by a different person).' 

Boarding 

Tell the crew

Once again, inform the crew that you have an allergy and give them the details - customer service teams may not be able to share this information with the flight crew so it's vital that you do.

Pre-board and clean the seats 

British Airways states: 'You will be able to pre-board when you present your medical letter for the epinephrine/adrenaline auto-injector to staff at the gate. This will allow you to wipe down your seating area to help prevent inadvertent contact with allergen traces. Passengers must bring their own suitable wipes.'

Ask for an announcement 

If you want the airline to make an announcement asking passengers to refrain from using or eating products containing your allergen then do this now. 

However, you should be aware that complying with this request is 'not a legal requirement' and 'does not guarantee that the other passengers have heard, understood or will comply with the request', according to Allergy UK.

Tell those sitting around you (and the crew again) 

When boarding the plane you must inform cabin crew of your food allergy again to ensure there are no crossed wires. 

When you sit down, BA states: 'Advise cabin crew and the people seated next to you of your allergy, where you have placed the medication and what to do in an emergency. Our cabin crew can speak to people seated near to you to help explain your allergy.' 

TRAVEL TIPS FOR ALLERGY SUFFERERS - INCLUDING THE BEST TIMES OF DAY TO FLY

• The time you travel can have an impact; airplanes are typically deep cleaned overnight, so the first morning flight is likely to lower the chances of cross-contamination on the surfaces. However, if you have a milk or egg allergy, flying in the evening could reduce the amount of potential allergy triggers on your flight.

• Where you are seated can reduce your risk of exposure to certain food allergens. So, for example, being seated further away from where food is prepared may help to minimise the risk of coming into contact with any airborne particles such as milk when heated.

• Take a pack of alcohol wipes with you, to clean down the seating area especially the tray table.

• Avoid using the airline’s pillows and blankets, as they are frequently not washed and just re-wrapped between flights.

• Carry your allergy medication in your hand luggage, ensuring it is always accessible.

• Check your allergy medication has not expired or will not expire whilst you are travelling.

• Remember communication of your allergies is key: Inform airline staff of your food allergy at every opportunity, at booking, on boarding the aircraft and before any food supplied by the airline is eaten.

Source: Allergy UK 

During the flight    

Wash your hands often 

Clean your hands as much as possible, especially before eating, to prevent a contact reaction from anything that may have been spilled or touched by other passengers, crew or may remain in the area from a previous flight.

The advice from Allergy UK states: 'This contact is usually from the hands, which bring the allergen in contact with the face, or mouth. 

'Handwashing before eating or putting fingers in the mouth as well as cleaning the tray table is important.' 

Check everything you eat 

It is important that you ask the crew every time a dish or drink is offered to you that it does not contain your allergen. 

Many airlines have an allergen chart that they can provide to you upon request. You should do this even if your allergen does not appear on the packaging or if the crew has told you it does not contain your allergen. The chart should list every ingredient in what you are about to eat.  

BA notes: 'Ingredients that are considered potential allergens in the UK may differ from those in other countries, so please be aware that packaging on food may not list all the allergens included in UK legislation on UK-bound flights.'

Allergy UK adds: 'Even when an allergen-free meal has been requested it is important to check when the meal is served that this is free from the food allergen(s) that needs to be avoided.' 

Keep your medication close to hand 

The hold is an unsuitable place for injectable medication as you cannot reach it during the flight and the pressure and temperature could damage it. 

Do not place your medication in the overhead lockers as you may not be able to reach it if you have a reaction. Always keep it in a reachable place. 

BA recommends: 'Ensure your medication is easily accessible throughout the flight, e.g. place it in the seat pocket or on you personally.

'Advise cabin crew and the people seated next to you of your allergy, where you have placed the medication and what to do in an emergency.'

Pick a 'safer' departure time 

Allergy UK says: 'The time you travel can have an impact; airplanes are typically deep cleaned overnight, so the first morning flight is likely to lower the chances of cross-contamination on the surfaces. However, if you have a milk or egg allergy, flying in the evening could reduce the amount of potential allergy triggers on your flight.' 

Additional warnings 

While every care may be taken by the airline, food allergic passengers should be aware of a number of risks.  

Allergy UK states: 'It is important to note that even when airlines have adopted a nut-free policy, or are able to offer a nut-free service (not selling nuts or providing nuts as a snack), this does not stop other passengers eating nuts, and/or nut-containing foods at the airport prior to boarding or bringing these foods onto a flight and eating them. 

'This means they cannot guarantee a nut-free cabin/flight. Some airlines may make a request to passengers seated in aisles around the person with the food allergy to not eat nuts but other passengers may not understand or comply with this request.'

Get translation cards 

Translation cards, pre-written cards with a statement declaring that you are allergic to your specific allergen in different languages, may help you communicate your needs with others. You can make these yourself or buy them from Allergy UK here. 

Get the correct travel insurance 

Holidaymakers with an allergy should also ensure they have valid travel insurance. This means informing your insurer of your allergy so that the correct cover can be provided. 

You should get a comprehensive plan so that any eventuality is covered and check the small print to make sure this includes: emergency treatment, ambulance transfers, hospital admission and replacement of allergy medications.

Amena Warner, Head of Clinical Services, Allergy UK says: 'Travelling with a food allergy does require extra precautions as airlines will have their own policy on food allergy management, and this may vary from airline to airline. It is important people are aware of the policy of the airline with which they are travelling. 

'We advise proactively alerting the airline of allergy needs in advance of a trip and then, if possible, arriving early for the flight to confirm requests regarding seating and early boarding. Travelling with food allergies can be really challenging and it's so important that airlines, staff and passengers understand this and the risks involved for the person with the allergy.' 

Read more

2024-06-18T12:46:09Z dg43tfdfdgfd