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The University of Southampton

Going on holiday with a nut allergy? How allergic people balance risks when travelling abroad

Published: 24 July 2012

As children start their summer holidays and people get ready to jet off to sunnier climates, researchers are warning that people who have nut and peanut allergies find it difficult to travel abroad and the information provided to them by airlines and tourist authorities should be of a better standard.

In a study, funded by the Food Standards Agency and published in the journal of Clinical and Translational Allergy, researchers asked people with nut and peanut allergies how they cope with every day risks such as food shopping and eating out.

Results showed that some experiences were challenging when travelling aboard especially when deciding where to visit and the inconsistent information on ingredients from airlines. Additionally people’s choices of where to travel was also affected by their food allergies and their decisions about what to eat depended on the access to medical care.

Dr Jane Lucas, lead author of the study and a Paediatric Allergy consultant and researcher at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and University of Southampton, says “We have always known that travelling abroad is a high risk situation for individuals with food allergies. Our study highlights a number of situations that are particularly problematic for nut allergic individuals during travel. Airline flights are of particular concern for individuals and this is exacerbated by inconsistent information by airlines and their staff. Our study demonstrates that nut allergic individuals are taking sensible steps to remain safe, and it is now time for the travel industry to take responsibility for the safety of their customers and develop a consistent approach to allergic travellers. Healthcare professionals should be able to advise their patients and direct them to reliable sources of information for travellers with allergy.”

Hazel Gowland of Allergy Action who has a nut and peanut allergy and advised the project team adds: “Holidays and travel abroad can be a scary prospect for people who need to avoid any kind of food because of an allergy and for those who travel with them. Last year I turned down an invitation to an overseas conference where avoiding nuts might have been too difficult. The more opportunities there are to obtain reliable advance information for every stage of the trip, the better. This includes booking, food and snacks on flights, language and communication, shopping, catering and self-catering, managing medication and getting emergency medical support if needed.”

The team of researchers that carried out the study included doctors, psychologists, dieticians, allergic consumers and experts in food allergy.


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