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Have Allergies, Will Travel

Mold lurking on the shelves of a used book shop.

Dust mites embedded in a hotel pillowcase.

Peanuts tucked into a chicken salad.

These are the types of things that make travelers with allergies more likely to stay at home.

“People sometimes don’t travel as much,” said Dr. Julie D.K. McNairn, an allergist who practices in Ithaca, N.Y. “They may not explore as much. It kind of can limit your choices as to where you might be willing to go because there is that unknown aspect.”

But this need not be the case. With good preparation and modern tools, McNairn says people with allergies can enjoy travel just like anyone else would.

Start with a visit to your specialist to discuss your destination and review your allergy management plan. “A lot of times we will ramp up the plan a little bit pre-emptively, knowing that there are going to be unusual exposures,” she said.

Next, do a little research on your destination and download a handy tech tool or two.

WebMD Allergy, available as a free app, offers dust, grass pollen, tree pollen, ragweed and mold forecasts based on your location, as well as other handy features.

The AllergyEats app, also free, allows diners to share food-allergy-based dining reviews and has menus for more than 425,000 restaurants.

The website www.allergytranslation.com offers customizable cards that explain allergies to a variety of foods in any of 43 languages.
Because some challenges can’t be anticipated (a coffee shop that turns out to be a cat cafe, for instance), “make sure you have your antihistamine and your injectable epinephrine if those have been prescribed,” McNairn said. It’s also a good idea to look into allergy specialists and medical facilities at your destination.

On your journey, McNairn says that if you’re forthcoming with airport, airline, restaurant and hotel staff, most will be able to accommodate you. Restaurants are more aware that some diners have food allergies. And medications have made allergies easier to manage.

“Absolutely people can have allergies and still have a fabulous time on vacation,” McNairn said. Bon voyage!

Read more about wellness while traveling.

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