Students traveling with restricted diets should actively plan for their experience. It is important to start thinking about how to travel with these restrictions and to start developing strategies for staying healthy.
Travelers on Ohio State University Approved or Managed Programs
Travelers seeking reasonable accommodations for a dietary preference or food allergies are advised to disclose this information on the post-acceptance Accommodations and Disabilities Form. This will allow your OIA program coordinator or program leader to communicate this information to travel providers, group meal reservations or home-stay families to determine reasonable accommodations.
Travelers with food allergies that may prompt a life-threatening reaction or require medical assistance are advised to disclose their specific allergies on the post-acceptance Health Information Form.
There are no standard requirements for airlines to make accommodations for travelers with allergies according to the Air Carrier Access Act. Travelers are advised to:
- Notify their airline in advance of their allergy and request accommodation. Accommodations are not standard practice, especially on non-U.S. carriers; some airlines will offer special meals, avoid distributing nuts on a current flight or create a buffer zone. If traveling on an Ohio State arranged group flight, your program coordinator can ask the travel agent to make this request.
- Travel with baby or disinfectant wipes to clean surfaces that could have come in contact with allergens you need to avoid.
- Bring non-perishable food that is safe to eat while traveling. Keep in mind some countries will have strict customs regulations on any food items entering the country. Do not assume similar products manufactured in other countries will contain the exact same ingredients.
- Be sure to pack any medications in your carry-on luggage. If traveling with emergency EpiPen auto-injector, make sure it is accessible at all times (e.g. in the seatback pocket versus stored in the overhead bin). Do not carry it in a roller bag or other large item that may need to be gate checked on smaller planes.
Preparing to Travel with a Food Allergy, Preference or Restriction
It is the responsibility of individual travelers to research the local cuisine of their destination(s) to determine what kinds of foods/ingredients to expect in dishes. Travelers should also learn the related vocabulary in the language(s) of their host country in order to navigate menus, ingredients lists, packaging labels and communicate their needs or preferences to airline staff, restaurant employees, in-country program providers or others providing meals. Students should learn and carry the written translation of any allergens (including byproducts), restricted items or medical concerns with life threatening reactions and how to ask if food contains or was prepared with or near the allergen or restricted item.
- GeoBlue has a medical phrases translator that can offer translations and pronunciation of terms and phrases such as “gluten” or “I am allergic to peanuts (eggs, milk, shellfish, etc.)” from English to over a dozen languages.
- Organizations like FARE, Select Wisely and Brokerfish offer or sell translation cards for a range of diets and allergies that can provide the needed vocabulary for you.
If a particular dietary requirement or language is not accessible in these resources, search information online to effectively communicate about diet and health in a new environment.
Travelers with food allergies that may require medical assistance or cause anaphylaxis or other life-threatening reactions are advised to consider the following:
- Speak with their allergist or treating medical provider about their plans to travel, including the destination(s), duration and itinerary arrangements for meals. Remember to discuss your allergies and restrictions in pre-travel medical consultations.
- Travel with a medical ID customized in the language(s) of the destination of travel or carry a laminated card with critical medical information written in both English and the host language(s).
- Consult the prescriptions, medications and medical supplies section for information on traveling with medicines and access abroad. Always carry your emergency medications with you everywhere you go while abroad.
- Do not assume allergists and emergency medical resources will be available in all locations. Speak with your program coordinator and consult the GeoBlue resources to determine accessibility to medical resources.
- Consider disclosing this information directly to their program leaders or staff at their destination abroad. If traveling on an Ohio State faculty-led program, most faculty and staff leaders are not medically trained to recognize anaphylaxis or administer an EpiPen auto-injector (note that Ohio State faculty-led programs do not travel with EpiPens). However, making them aware of your allergy, signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and if you are traveling with an EpiPen or other medications can help them recognize and assist you in responding to an emergency.
Travelers with eating disorders or disordered eating are encouraged to contact their medical provider or the Ohio State Eating Disorder Treatment Team (EDT) to discuss their plans to travel, including the destination(s), duration and itinerary arrangements for meals. It is important for travelers to assess how their education abroad experience might challenge their current wellness management strategies. For example, on many short-term programs, all food is arranged in hotels or restaurants and travelers may not have the option of preparing their own meals. Travelers should also consider exposure to local diet and culinary preparation, the role of food in culture and social interactions and environmental factors can provide additional triggers.