Part of growing up is experiencing new things, and holidays and trips away from home are a chance to relax and enjoy new surroundings. Having a child with an allergy can, however put a strain on parents when deciding how to manage a holiday in a different environment.
Having an allergy means you have to be aware of triggers which could affect your allergies on a day to day basis. However, if you are realistic and take care you can still enjoy suitable leisure pursuits such as holidays.
If you are holidaying in the UK or abroad, try to think of all the issues which usually impact upon your daily life and how they may differ if you are on holiday. Firstly, plan where you wish to go, taking into account the suitability for your child, and think of all the triggers which could affect their allergies such as:
- How will you get there?
- Do you understand the language?
- Do you need to discuss immunisations with your doctor?
- Do you have adequate supplies of medication for your holiday?
- Do you have translation cards available in case of an emergency and you require urgent medical attention?
- Have you found out where the nearest hospital is?
- Are you camping or going to a hotel?
- Do you need to take your own suitable bedding (consider barrier covers for allergy control whilst away)
- Have you thought about menus and foods, and do you have your own safe snacks available?
- Does your venue cater for specific dietary needs? If severely allergic, self catering may be the safest option
- If allergic to pets, try to ensure that you book a pet-free residence
You will probably already know which products you can use on your child without causing skin problems or their interfering with other treatments (such as those for eczema). Make sure you take a good supply of this product if you will not be able to buy it at your destination.
Remember to take appropriate clothing for the weather and your child’s condition, and also remember that fluid intake is very important for all children.
Take more medication than you should need so that, if any leaks or gets lost, you will have enough. If you have to ‘check’ your bag to travel, make sure that you keep essential medication in your hand luggage.
Check with your GP or pharmacist about how medicines need to be stored; many react to different temperatures and you need to be aware of this before travelling.
Auto-injector adrenaline pens must be kept with your child at all times. This can pose issues to do with storage and possibly security. They need to be kept at the correct temperature and this needs to be considered when travelling for days to very hot or cold destinations. They must not be stored in cool bags and it can be sensible, even if only walking in Britain, to store an auto-injector pen in the centre of a bag, rather than on the outside where it can be affected by temperature change.
Allergy UK can provide you with a translation card that states the nature of your child’s allergy, and the treatments needed, in common holiday destination languages. Keep this with you at all times so that you can communicate if an emergency happens.
Check with your mobile phone operator that you are set up to use your phone abroad in the country you are visiting, and make sure you know the emergency service number for your destination when you arrive.
You may want to take bedding for your child – a barrier cover for their mattress, pillows and duvet, for instance, if staying in a hotel or self-catering apartment, and your child has a dust mite allergy.
Very few hotels and self-catering places use feather bedding these days, but it might be worth checking if this allergy is an issue.
Some accommodation has a policy of welcoming pets. If your child has a pet allergy, check that you are staying somewhere without this policy! Even hotels and apartments which are scrupulously clean will harbour pet allergens if animals have been there.
Although getting rarer, smoking is still allowed in some hotel rooms and other types of accommodation. If breathing problems are caused by allergy, you do not want to stress your child’s lungs by introducing them to a recently smoky atmosphere, so check you have non-smoking accommodation.
Food allergy can cause many problems with eating out in the UK and abroad. If you are not self-catering, check before you book about how the catering at the venue can accommodate your child’s needs. Take a good supply of allergy-free snacks. If a severe food allergy is a risk for your child, a self-catering holiday may be the only option.
If going abroad, the same questions you ask in the UK can be asked. Many simply-prepared foods in restaurants could be open to your child to eat. Ask about oils used in cooking and, if in doubt, avoid.
Take clear written instructions with the same information explaining your child’s allergies, that you would include in a protocol, with an attached photo of your child. Make enough copies so that you have two copies for each day you think your child will go to a kids’ club. Then, if there are new staff each day or even in the morning and afternoon, you can brief them about your child.
Make a point of meeting and discussing any requirements with anyone who may be helping entertain your children if you intend to leave them in a childcare facility whilst away.
Make sure you are always available and give your mobile telephone contact numbers. Discuss activities and what substances are allowed and not allowed. If food allergic, supply your own labelled containers for foods, sweets and drinks if necessary. Consider identification jewellery for your child.
Enjoy your holiday, but just remember to be alert to new environments and to follow your allergy management plan, as you would at home, to minimise exposure to potential allergens.
Last updated: March 2012