Exploring unfamiliar places and cultures is exciting — and with the rise of remote work, more people have embraced the digital nomad lifestyle. However, traveling internationally with food allergies is stressful, whether you’re at risk or someone accompanying you is. 

Fortunately, you can have peace of mind about visiting foreign places with food allergies when you plan and prepare carefully. Globe trotters can take their jobs overseas and maintain control over their dietary restrictions by traveling with caution.

Food Allergies Are More Common Than You Think

If you suffer from food allergies, you’re not alone. Food allergies — nuts, dairy, wheat, eggs, seafood, shellfish and soybeans — are growing worldwide among adults, children and infants. 

Nearly 2% of the global population has a peanut allergy, with 7% to 14% experiencing accidental exposure to peanuts annually. Another one-third to half of people with peanut allergies have severe reactions. 

Likewise, 0.2% to 1% of people have wheat allergies. Although the number seems low, 1% to 2% of Americans have celiac disease, with far more reporting gluten sensitivities. 

In Europe, 5.7% and 2.4% of people reported a dairy and egg allergy, respectively, while the prevalence of shellfish, soy and wheat allergies is also on an upward trend.

Perhaps surprisingly, Australia has one of the highest prevalence of food allergies. About 11% of the Australian population is allergic to something, with most one-year-old children unable to eat eggs and peanuts.

6 Tips for Traveling With Food Allergies Internationally

Are you planning to travel internationally with a food allergy? While you have much to look forward to when visiting a new place, it is understandable if you’re nervous. By following these tips, you can avoid getting stuck in a foreign country with a severe food reaction. 

A digital nomad shopping for food.

– Visit Allergen-Friendly Places

One of the joys of living the digital nomad lifestyle is the ability to pack your belongings and go wherever you want. However, choosing somewhere you feel safest eating might be wise.

Some of the best places to travel with a nut allergy include Japan, the United Kingdom and Italy. Aside from the European Union mandating proper allergen labeling on products and restaurant menus, many European cuisines use little or no nut ingredients. 

In Japan, the only ingredient you may need to adhere caution to is sesame seeds if you have an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. However, not everyone with a nut allergy is allergic to sesame seeds.

Otherwise, allergy awareness is also high in Canada, the U.S. and Australia, with many restaurants going to great lengths to accommodate those with various food allergies. 

– Fly With an Allergy-Friendly Airline

It’s one thing to visit an allergy-friendly place, but you still need to get there safely. Flying with food allergies presents its own challenges, but numerous airlines have allergy-friendly policies for customers.

Southwest Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, American Airlines and United Airlines can accommodate passengers with food restrictions. Some airlines, like Delta and United, require you to call them 24 to 48 hours in advance to inform them of your allergy or place an order for dairy or gluten-free meals. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue automatically do not offer nut-based snacks as part of their guidelines.

Japan Airlines, Air Canada, Air France, ANA, Swiss Airlines and British Airways are generally safe for passengers with food allergies. Of course, it is always best to review their policies and fly cautiously.

– Carry a Food Allergy Card

Allergy cards for international travel are one of the best ways to protect yourself from a severe reaction in another country. 

Create a food allergy card with your dietary restrictions. If you are traveling somewhere with a different native language than your own, translate your allergies on the card. Also, include photos of the foods you are allergic to.

Some people put alternatives on the card to make it easier for chefs to modify meals. For example, suppose you are lactose intolerant. Hard cheeses — Swiss, cheddar and parmesan — take months to years to ferment but are easier to digest than soft cheeses. Other low-lactose cheeses include feta cheese or cottage cheese. 

If a meal comes with soft cheeses, you can let the chef know which hard cheeses won’t aggravate your allergy.

– Pack the Essentials

No one wants to have a food reaction while traveling, but it is wise to prepare yourself for anything. Always fill any prescriptions before you travel, including Epinephrine injections, in the off chance you have anaphylaxis. 

Your doctor can write a letter on your behalf to the airlines to allow you to go through the security checkpoints with your medicine. Additionally, they can advocate for you to your insurance company so they remove the cap on how many prescription amounts you can fill at once.

Additionally, the TSA doesn’t regard sanitizing wipes as liquid — so you can bring them in your carry-on bag. Wipe down your seat when you get on the plane to remove any food residue from the previous flight. 

A view of a grocery store.

– Bring Your Own Food

If you have a severe food allergy, it is a good idea to pack snacks you can eat. The TSA allows you to bring dry foods through the security checkpoint at the airport without trouble. Before heading to the gate, you can also purchase allergy-free snacks at the airport shops.

If you’re nervous about bringing food, you can confirm your ability to do so with the airline by reaching out to a representative or having your doctor write a note for TSA. 

– Research Before Visiting

Another way to travel safely with food allergies internationally is to research before you leave. Look up local restaurants wherever you’re visiting and make a list of dining options — this includes looking at the menus and getting ideas of what to order.

You should also locate nearby urgent care facilities, hospitals and pharmacies in case of an emergency. There are 30,000 emergency room visits and 2,000 hospitalizations from anaphylaxis annually in the U.S. The number is likely much higher in the rest of the world.

Although practicing the utmost care will prevent such incidents, you never know when you’ll need medical attention due to food allergy exposure. 

Travel Safely With Food Allergies

You have more control over traveling safely with food allergies than you think. While international adventures may be somewhat tricky to navigate, there are ways to enjoy yourself without constantly worrying about what to eat.