Guest blog post from Teen Advisory Group member Reva Dixit.
The days are warm, crisp, and long. The sun shines brighter than ever. School is over and summer is here. With the arrival of summer also comes beach days, house parties, and above all, traveling. I remember my first time traveling to India via Air France, the staff offered me peanuts as a snack, and all the allergen-free meals were a meager serving of a berry compote and a hard, gluten-free cookie. When I actually got to India, I went to a fancy restaurant and specifically told the staff that I was allergic to nuts, sesame, and chickpeas (all staples of Indian cuisine), and I was still served my dosa with a coconut chutney shoved to the side.
It becomes harder to manage your allergies and travel. In many areas, food allergies are not understood very well. It is not a fault on cultures, or even a lack of education or “civilization.” It is simply about the dialogue we emphasize in our societies, and how the dialogue about allergies varies in each place. Allergies are relatively rare in the Indian population in comparison to America. For instance, I am the first in my family to have food allergies and eczema, a diagnosis that makes little genetic sense at first. It is hard for one person to have a voice loud enough to carry throughout all of a society, especially one that is 17% of the world’s population. But even the most difficult of goals can be overcome if we continue to push for this dialogue everywhere, as FARE does in the United States.
However, for teens that are traveling to new, exciting places over the summer, I have a few tips for managing your allergies while on the go.
- Make/buy your own food for long flights. Chances are, parts of the in-flight meal may have one of your food allergens (if it is one of the common ones), and even if the flight offers an allergen-free meal, it won’t be satisfying in any way.
- When eating out, make sure to emphasize specifically to the waiter, and even the chef if you have to, the severity of your food allergies. Don’t threaten them; you don’t want to get kicked out. But explain clearly the items you are allergic to, the severity of your symptoms, and the need to avoid cross-contamination. If the food still doesn’t seem safe to you, ask the waiter again or leave and try somewhere else. Being safe is always the best option.
- If you will be traveling somewhere where you don’t think you can access any safe food, make sure you stock up on nonperishable foods that you can eat. This seems like a general no-brainer, but foresight is hardly 20/20.
FARE also has a list for traveling with food allergies. Be sure to be safe, but also make sure you have fun. You’re young, you have a whole life of adventure and enjoyment ahead of you. Don’t worry too much and have a great summer!
Registration is now open for the 12th Annual Teen Summit this fall in beautiful Newport Beach, CA. Applications for need-based scholarships to the event will be accepted until July 31, 2017. Visit foodallergy.org/teensummit for more information and to register.