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Tips for Handling a Travel Allergy Emergency

Tips for Handling a Travel Allergy Emergency


What happens if you or someone you are with has an allergic reaction while you are traveling? Those who know about their allergies have an advantage because they are usually prepared. They know what causes a reaction (shellfish, bee sting, peanuts) and often have an Epipen injector handy.

However, whether you know about an allergy in advance or not, there are a few things you can even away from home in the event of an allergy emergency.

If I experienced an allergic reaction while traveling this is what I would do.

1.  Dial 911 (or the local equivalent) while taking stock of your resources.   Emergency personnel may not arrive in time if the reaction closes off the airway.  Is there anyone nearby who is a physician?

2.  Make a Fuss. Don’t be embarrassed. Call out for a doctor or make wild gestures and get someone’s attention if you can’t talk.   Point to your nose or your mouth and making choking sounds.

3.  Ask for an EpiPen If Necessary. EpiPen’s are not for everyone and should be used with caution; however, if faced with a life threatening emergency it is an option to consider. If you are able to talk or are with someone having an emergency ask the hotel, airline, or the facility where you are located if they have an Epipen Emergency Kit or have one handy. The makers of Epipen have made kits available in some areas to hotel facilities so they might have a kit.

4.   Ask for Help from the Staff.   Even if the staff where you are located doesn’t have medical training or an EpiPen handy, , they may come through in unexpected ways.  I was on a flight once where a passenger had a reaction from a Stingray sting that occurred earlier in the day before the flight.  The passenger thought he was ok; however, the high altitude during the flight apparently exacerbated the issued resulting in a serious reaction to the Stingray venom at nearly 30,000 feet.  His heart started beating sporadically and his life was at risk. The flight attendant alerted the pilot who made an emergency landing.  It was a wild ride for everyone else but emergency crews met the plane and got the man to safety.  If his family hadn’t asked for help from the staff, it may not have turned out as well.

5. Think Outside the Box. No staff, no emergency kit and you are all alone with what appears to be an escalating reaction.  What do you do?  NFL superstar Adrian Peterson suffered an unexpected shellfish allergy while in a hotel room.   Adrian reportedly called his personal trainer, who was in the same building, when Adrian Peterson started to have trouble breathing. Adrian’s trainer apparently showed up with an Epipen but as noted noted above, help can come in a variety of forms – even just a lift to the emergency room. Adrian indicated the EpiPen helped ease his breathing and allowed him time to get to the hospital where he was treated and his allergy was confirmed. This is obviously a last resort as you should never use someone else’s prescription unless there are no alternatives but in a pinch, I personally would do whatever I had to to save my life.

6.  If you don’t speak the language, you have a few options.

-Carry translation cards with you that specify your allergy in the foreign language. You can then use the card to alert personnel in advance or during an emergency.   Customizeable allergy translation cards are available at

-Use hand gestures as mentioned above.

-Use a translation tool.  Some phones have translators built in and if you have internet access – and time – you can try google translator to quickly explain the issue. It’s probably faster to signal you can’t breath; however, if you have time to provide more detail but can’t speak the language or get enough air, there is benefit to typing it out and translating it so that medical technicians will know what is happening.

7.  Alert Airlines, Hotels and Family in Advance.  If you know you are traveling with a severe allergy, call in advance and makes arrangements.   You should also wear a bracelet or carry a card indicating your allergies so that if you are alone and unable to communicate, those assisting you will know  allergies might be an issue.

I am not a doctor or physician so this information is merely my opinion.  You should always check with your doctor before using any medication or taking any actions regarding health.

About Epinephrine: Epinephrine is the chemical naturally produced by the body and which is used in the trademarked EpiPen to offset severe nallergic reactions. The EpiPen auto-injectors are portable and are available in junior sizes as well.

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