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FARE Blog January 14, 2022

Managing Food Allergies Abroad

Following a recent trip to Germany, Teen Advisory Group (TAG) member Brandon Brigner shares what he learned about traveling internationally with food allergies.

Guest post by Teen Advisory Group (TAG) member Brandon Brigner

Brandon Brigner

Over the summer I was able to fly to Germany and visit family friends over two weeks. This would have ordinarily been nothing to worry about since everything was previously planned out, such as the flights, hotels, and dates, but having food allergies makes travel much more complicated. Although it is more challenging, there are a few simple tips that can make it easier that I wish I had known.

I have always been able to manage my food allergies (egg, peanut, shellfish) pretty independently, but having to do this with a language barrier makes it especially difficult. Although most people in Germany speak English, there were still many instances of miscommunications where if I hadn't double checked something I ordered myself, I could have been at a hospital.

One example would be when I was at a restaurant for dinner, and I had asked about an allergen in something. The waiter responded with a little hesitation saying it did not have egg. Later when they brought it out, it was a different waiter. When I asked this waiter if it contained egg, he was sure it did have egg. If it hadn't been for a different waiter bringing out the food, we wouldn't have known there was egg in the dish. A main takeaway from this is always double check and don't be afraid to ask about something. Often it might feel like you are inconveniencing the waiter but doing something that small can avoid a allergy incident and prevent having to use your EpiPen®.

You can find FARE’s free chef cards to help you communicate with restaurants here. They are available in multiple languages.

Another difficult situation to manage would be airplanes. It seems like there is always someone with a bag of peanuts or another of my allergens sitting next to me or close by, and having to ask them to not eat it may seem like a lot. Although they might be disappointed, it definitely outweighs having to use epinephrine in an airplane. This tip regarding not hesitating to ask also applies to the airline staff. It can be helpful to let them know before you get on the plane because sometimes they will help prevent that situation to begin with.

You can find more tips on airlines from the “Airlines and Allergies” TAG project.

No matter where you travel, it’s important to prepare in advance, communicate, and always double check before eating anything. 

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