Even minor allergies such as hay fever and the dry skin condition eczema can be a headache if your child is exposed to a different environment or doesn't have their medication with them.
Here's how to have a safe and worry-free trip:
Before you go
• Make sure you have all the medicines you'll need: These might include: EpiPens® (for nut allergies); asthma inhalers; creams and emollients for eczema; and antihistamines for hayfever. Take an extra supply just in case the first lot gets used up or lost.
• Get a letter from your GP: You'll need this to accompany any prescription drugs/ EpiPens® you are taking with you, confirming what they are and what they are needed for. You may need to show this at airport security to explain why you are carrying them as hand luggage.
• Find out about emergency care: Having the numbers of local ambulance and hospital emergency departments for your destination will make things easier in a crisis.
• Take translation cards: The charity Allergy UK provide medical translation cards you can take with you and show to hotel or restaurant staff, i explaining your child's allergy.
Coping with asthma
Check you have a good supply of inhalers, that are in date and not half empty and keep them with you always.
Think about your child's asthma triggers and how you can avoid them; book a hotel with a salt water swimming pool if chlorine is a trigger, and always check hotel rooms have a strict non-smoking policy if cigarette smoke is a problem. ii If cold weather sets off symptoms, make sure they are well-wrapped up with a scarf covering their mouth.
Vitamins have been found to help with the management of asthma. A 2016 review iii found vitamin D supplements reduced the severity of asthma attacks among children and adults. Public Health England now advise all UK children aged one to four years old should take a daily 10mcg vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter. iv
Citrus fruit containing vitamin C may help protect kids against experiencing shortness of breath with wheezing, while foods such as bread, butter and margarine may exacerbate symptoms. v
Flying with a nut allergy
If your child has a nut allergy you may be worrying about accidental exposure on the flight. Pre-empt this by writing to them in advance explaining your child has a nut allergy and requesting removal of peanuts on your flight with them. vi Be aware though that passengers may bring peanuts onto the flight and it's possible for your child to inhale airborne particles, so you will need to have EpiPens® and inhalers with you.
You can request a nut-free meal or take your own food for your child. Make the immediate environment safer in the cabin by cleaning the tray, table, arm rests and seatbelts with a wet wipe.
When you get to your resort keep your adrenaline EpiPen® kit in the shade(but not in the fridge or a hot car). vii
Coping with eczema on holiday
The skin condition can be triggered by environmental factors, including dry heat, low humidity and sudden changes in temperature – as well as swimming.
Sunscreen may cause irritation, so choose one that is fragrance-free, protects against UVA and UVB rays and is hypo-allergenic. Do a small patch test on your child's skin before you go on holiday (not where they have eczema though). If they have no reaction to it, test it on a wider area.
Continue to treat their eczema while you're away; apply emollients and then apply suncream half an hour later, before you go out in the sunshine. Apply emollient before they go swimming, make sure they shower afterwards and then apply more.
If you're worried about their skin reacting to bedding washed in an unfamiliar detergent, you should pack your own.
Vitamin C has antihistamine properties, viii which may be helpful if your child has allergies.
Vitamin D is also thought to play a role in allergies. One Australian study found infants with low vitamin D were more likely to have egg or peanut allergy, compared to those with normal vitamin D levels.ix A 10mcg a day supplement is now recommended for everyone aged one and over in the UK during autumn and winter.
Multivitamins specially formulated for children are a useful safety net. The Department of Health recommend all children aged six months to five years take a daily multivitamin containing vitamins A, C and D. x
i Allergy UK: Travelling abroad with a food allergy
iii Martineau et al (201) Vitamin D for the management of asthma: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. European Respiratory Journal
iv NHS: Vitamin D
v Farchi et al (2003) Dietary factors associated with wheezing and allergic rhinitis in children. European Respiratory Journal