Family travel for people with allergies can be challenging. Added concerns about germs and viruses can make parents and kids even more concerned about traveling. But some simple cleanliness and protection steps can be lifesaving.
Air travel, for example, can be particularly germy. When Travelmath.com sent a microbiologist to collect 26 samples at five airports and four flights, they found the tray table was the dirtiest place on the airplane with 2155 colony forming units (CFU) per square inch. In comparison, the bathroom flush button had 265 CFUs.
The risk of getting exposed to allergens while traveling is a real concern, too. About 26 million American adults have a food allergy, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 4.8 million American kids have reported food allergies. While some food allergies are mild, others are severe. Allergic reactions can range from hives to coughing to shortness of breath to going into anaphylaxis shock, which could be deadly.
“I recommend planning ahead before you go anywhere if you are concerned about a possible allergic reaction,” says Gina Hoensheid, a mother of two who was tired of her family getting sick after flying. “Planning ahead and educating yourself of the potential encounters is key.”
She advises alerting staff and others nearby about your child’s food allergies as soon as possible, carrying and using cleaning wipes for surfaces and hands, and using hand sanitizer. For severe allergies, pack disposable gloves and a mask.
Still, it’s up to parents to be vigilant. “Do not rely on others to be able to completely prevent possible allergic reactions,” she says. “Nobody will be more mindful than you about keeping potential harmful situations than you will.”
Peace of mind
Hoensheid turned her frustration into a business. She’s the owner and CEO of Seat Sitters, a friendly travel kit that comes with a disposable, reusable seat cover, tray table cover, two sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer for adults, an allergy mask, and a peanut sticker to notify those around you about your allergy. The kit also includes crayons so kids (and adults!) can draw on the tray table cover.
“This kit has been a godsend for many allergy families who are afraid to travel due to severe food allergies and worried about surface contamination,” she says.
The kit gives families a little more peace of mind by helping them take control of their space. It can be used at restaurants, doctors’ offices, at the movies, and other places families go.
“I wanted to help in any way I could to help the parents and kids of those with food allergies feel safer and more included in group celebrations,” says Hoensheid. “I wanted to find a way to make life easier and more convenient for these families.”