For advice on severe allergies, visit the Anaphylaxis Campaign website or drop us a line / 01252 542029 /@ACOutthere/@Anaphylaxiscoms

Monday, 4 April 2016

Sinead Banfield: Travelphylaxis- My experience with travelling and Anaphylaxis

Feeling the freedom at Dune 45, Namibia

Anaphylaxis is a challenge, but life is an adventure! I have always enjoyed travelling
to different countries with family and friends. It was always Europe, United States
and Canada before the year 2014. You almost feel reassured in these countries due
to their food hygiene and allergy legislations. I was always extremely lucky to have
family and friends who understood and supported my severe allergies to nuts and

I’m 24 and for as long as I can remember I’ve always been up for a challenge in life,
whether it’s skydiving, scuba diving or just going completely out of my comfort zone.

In December 2014 my friend asked me to travel to the Dominican Republic with her
as part of a backpacking holiday. This was a very exciting yet scary opportunity for
me as I had never been to a country where allergy awareness is significantly
reduced. It would also involve a range of activities around different parts of the
country where English was hardly spoken. I really wanted to go as who wouldn't
want to visit the Caribbean during their lives? I therefore did all the research prior to
our departure. My Mother helped me to set up allergy cards in Spanish explaining
my Anaphylaxis and what would happen if I ate these allergens. I ensured that the
catering staff in every restaurant was aware of my allergies including the hostels we
stayed in so they could locate my epi-pens in an emergency. The trip went really well
and I haven’t looked back since. In fact I am now addicted to visiting different

I always wanted to travel to Africa to volunteer. I never thought this would be
possible with my Anaphylaxis and the fact that the awareness of allergies is low.
However I reminded myself that there are always ways around these things. I
travelled around Africa, alone which is a challenge in itself. I managed to get hold of
an organization named Hostel Hoff in Moshi, Tanzania, where they could not have
been more helpful. I felt at ease straight away, explaining to the manager about my
allergies and how I carry adrenaline everywhere I go. I volunteered here for 5 weeks
and during that time they ensured that everyone was aware of my allergies and I
gave regular demonstrations of my epi-pen administration. The cooks at the
accommodation provided me with meals free of nuts and seafood and ensured that
my food was never cross-contaminated. They even informed the nuns of my
condition at the orphanage. They explained through Swahili where I volunteered and
were also very helpful. They managed to include me during mealtimes. I carried my
Swahili allergy cards everywhere and I was catered for very well the majority of the
time whilst eating out.

Following this volunteer programme I travelled through Zanzibar with my cousin.
Zanzibar was a tourist hub but some restaurants didn’t quite understand my
condition. The more you travel with an allergy, the more your 6th sense develops and
you can spot which restaurants actually understand. We managed to stick to very
good restaurants who understood very well thanks to the allergy cards I provided to

Following Zanzibar I travelled through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and
South Africa with Acacia Africa who were also fantastic at dealing with
dietary/allergy requirements. You can explain allergies to anyone, however,
translating your requirements into another language can be challenging.

Elephant Sands, Botswana
You can enjoy your travels but remain vigilant bearing in mind that you have a life-threatening condition. However don’t let your allergies hold you back from doing the things you love. Food allergies are extra work. This will involve being organized and ensuring you carry your epi-pens and anti-histamines everywhere you go and when I say everywhere I mean it. I would recommend the following travelling tips:

  • I carried 6 Epi-pens whilst travelling. I would recommend you keep 2 in your safe or at the volunteer/accommodation base and keep 4 handy in your bag with you at all times (2 for an emergency and 2 spare).
  • Wear your medic alert jewellery. It can save time in a medical emergency and get you the treatment you need faster.
  • Did you know that you can get a medicalert app on your phone? It comes up on your lock screen when installed so the finder can check your medical and contact details straight away.
  • Always check your airline allergy policy as each airline has their own and it can be open to change.
  • Make up allergy cards in the language of the country you intend to visit. This is actually very easy but be careful about translating online. The best way to get it translated is through native speakers. I am lucky to have lots of connections across the world however I have found embassies to be very supportive in helping me to translate information into other languages.
  •  Travelling with Anaphylaxis can be more expensive when declaring your condition with travel insurance however it is vital that you do declare it because you never know when an emergency will arise so it is best to be prepared. I would rather pay for an extra policy than end up in an unaffordable situation.
  • If you want to volunteer abroad in Africa remember this is possible. Yes it is a little more challenging with anaphylaxis but it is possible. I would recommend doing it through an organization that understands about food allergies. Hostel Hoff are good and you can check out their website ( I found Acacia travel to be a very good overland tour company. Travelling through an organization is so much fun and I have made lots of friends across the globe.
  • Make sure your peers and catering staff understand your condition and never be afraid to be assertive when explaining about Anaphylaxis.
  • Most of all have fun whilst being vigilant with food allergies.

I hope this article will inspire my fellow Anaphylaxis sufferers to travel and have the
amazing experiences I did. We all have different challenges so if I can do it you can
too. One of my favourite quotes is "we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow
when we face challenges." I wish you all well and………….. Happy travelling!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. My son will be 17 next year when he goes to China with his school on an expedition and his allergy to peanuts is my main concern. We will look into translation cards etc. And also ensure that all his classmates are aware and trained.