Healthy Living

Top 5 Tips On Traveling With A Life-Threatening Food Allergy

06/14/2017 02:56pm ET | Updated June 14, 2017

Traveling with a food allergy or other dietary restrictions can be a scary experience. It’s even more scary when you have had a near-death allergic reaction. Several years ago, I had an allergic reaction after eating some contaminated food in Spain. Thankfully, I survived that trip, but I’ve been much more prepared and cautious during my travels.

Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Bring multiple EpiPens.

EpiPens are the single most important thing to take with you because they buy you time to get emergency care. A few minutes can mean life or death. In my Spain case, the nurse said that if my travel partner, Daraius, had not used the EpiPen on me, I probably would have not survived.

2. Bring other emergency medication.

Visit an allergy specialist and get prescriptions for the drugs you need. I always carry Benadryl (available over the counter) and Prednisone (an anti-inflammatory).

3. Minimize risk by formally notifying service staff.

I always carry Select Wisely’s chef cards with me. You can customize them by language spoken and allergy. These have been invaluable to help prevent allergies from happening in the first place because written instructions seem more serious than an informal conversation. In Spain, I verbally informed the waiter that I had a life-threatening allergy (and speak fluent Spanish, so I know it wasn’t lost in translation). I think if I had a written card that he could read and take to the chef, it may not have happened.

4. Bring back-up food.

When I travel to extremely remote locations or to countries with less than developed emergency care, I always bring my own food in case I don’t feel safe. In the Dominican Republic, I was once on a snorkel excursion where fish was served for the group lunch. So instead, I ate a few granola bars that I brought from the States. My favorites are Probars because they are packed with protein and fiber.

5. Train your travel partner(s) on how to administer your medication.

If you are traveling with others, let them know the signs of an allergic reaction and how to use your medication in case of an emergency. And consider staying with that person up to ~2 hours after eating, which is when most severe reactions occur.