Travelling With An Allergy

Woman sneezing in an airport

An allergy is when the body’s immune system mistakes something relatively harmless as harmful and overreacts.

One thing to remember before we begin is that an allergy is different from a sensitivity or an intolerance. A sensitivity is where the effect of something is exaggerated and an intolerance is where a substance will cause an unpleasant effect (eg diarrhoea).


It is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer from an allergy at some point in their life. Among the most common triggers for an allergic reaction are:

  • Pollen (Hayfever)
  • Stings and Bites
  • Foods
  • Medication
  • Animals
  • Chemicals and Latex

Allergic reactions can develop quite quickly after contact with the trigger. Symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing, Runny or Blocked nose
  • Itching and Rash
  • Wheezing and Cough

In most cases, the reaction is mild and will get better over time once the trigger is removed or with medication. However, approximately 1 in 1000 people can have a severe reaction which can be life-threatening. This is known as anaphylaxis and requires urgent medical treatment.

How To Treat/Manage An Allergy

Within the UK treatment and management can be much easier with a common language and easy access to medical help via Pharmacies or the NHS where needed. Food allergens are required to be on packaging and should be available in food outlets. It’s important to remember that planning ahead can save time and worry.

  • Think about planning meals and taking suitable basics and snacks.
  • Check the pollen counts with the Met Office. (
  • What accommodation are you staying in? Is it pet-free? Do you need your own bedding?
  • Where are the local medical services?

Things To Consider

Travelling abroad can be more worrying for allergy sufferers. First of all, there is the transportation, particularly flying. The recycling of air on an aeroplane can move triggers around the cabin easily and the choices of meal can need researching.  Secondly, there can be a language barrier depending on where you are going.

  • Is the holiday all-inclusive or half-board? Does the hotel cater for allergies? Do they provide a list of ingredients?
  • Are you self-catering? Can you read the words for your allergy triggers in the local language?
  • Do you have travel insurance that covers your allergy?
  • Are you aware of how to access medical help in the country you are visiting?
  • Have you taken enough of your medication with you? Could you get more there if needed?
  • Allergy UK have alert cards available covering over 70 different allergens in 36 different languages. They are available for a small fee from

And Remember…

Most importantly planning ahead can save the worry and uncertainty of travelling somewhere new with your allergy. Have everything you need ready and if in doubt ask. Other travellers will have had the same problems and travel companies will most likely have had the same questions asked.

Don’t forget to buy your allergy medicine before your travel!

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