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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

The strategies that peanut and nut-allergic consumers employ to remain safe when travelling abroad

Julie Barnett1, Neil Botting2, M Hazel Gowland3 and Jane S Lucas24*

Author Affiliations

1 Brunel University, London, UK

2 Academic Unit of Clinical and Experimental Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

3 Allergy Action, London, UK

4 Mailpoint 803. Clinical and Experimental Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Tremona Road, Southampton, UK , SO16 6YD

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Clinical and Translational Allergy 2012, 2:12  doi:10.1186/2045-7022-2-12

Published: 9 July 2012

Abstract

Background

An understanding of the management strategies used by food allergic individuals is needed as a prerequisite to improving avoidance and enhancing quality of life. Travel abroad is a high risk time for severe and fatal food allergic reactions, but there is paucity of research concerning foreign travel. This study is the first to investigate the experiences of, and strategies used by peanut and tree nut allergic individuals when travelling abroad.

Methods

Thirty-two adults with a clinical history of reaction to peanuts or tree nuts consistent with IgE-mediated allergy participated in a qualitative interview study.

Results

Travel abroad was considered difficult with inherent risks for allergic individuals. Many participants recounted difficulties with airlines or restaurants. Inconsistency in managing allergen avoidance by airlines was a particular risk and a cause of frustration to participants. Individuals used a variety of strategies to remain safe including visiting familiar environments, limiting their activities, carrying allergy information cards in the host language, preparing their own food and staying close to medical facilities.

Conclusions

Participants used a variety of allergen avoidance strategies, which were mostly extensions or modifications of the strategies that they use when eating at home or eating-out in the UK. The extended strategies reflected their recognition of enhanced risk during travel abroad. Their risk assessments and actions were generally well informed and appropriate. A need for airline policy regarding allergy to be declared and adhered to is needed, as is more research to quantify the true risks of airborne allergens in the cabin. Recommendations arising from our study are presented.

Keywords:
Food allergy; Peanut allergy; Tree nut allergy; Holiday; Travel; Airline