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Keeping Allergies Top of Mind

January 26, 2022

We understand—there’s a seemingly infinite number of considerations to be made when planning a student trip. It can feel like something is bound to slip through the cracks. One crucial item that deserves a good chunk of your time and attention? Allergies.

Knowing that student health and safety is at stake, it’s absolutely essential to take note of any allergies well in advance of your trip and ponder every angle possible. Use these tips to handle allergies on the road with confidence.

OVER-COMMUNICATE AND ASK QUESTIONS EARLY.
Give students and parents plenty of time to get back with you as to what allergies exist and their symptoms/severity. A great way to do this is to have parents fill out a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, which outlines recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, is signed by a physician and includes emergency contact information. You can find a downloadable PDF plan at bit.ly/3whHFU0.

Though they’re likely used to doing so, remind students with allergies that when in doubt, they also should ask questions. They may be offered a treat or bite of something unexpected along the way and need to advocate for themselves.

ENSURE ESSENTIAL MEDICATIONS AND EMERGENCY INFO ARE AT THE READY.
It may seem obvious to have any epinephrine auto-injectors or other prescribed medication packed just in case, but consider where these items are at all times. They’re no good if they’re hidden away in a hard-to-reach or hard-to-remember location when the time strikes. Make sure everything is labeled clearly and stored in a ready-to-grab location on your bus or in your hotel.

Even when taking all the proper steps in advance, emergencies can happen. In these rare instances, make certain you know how to administer the medication on hand if necessary.

REACH OUT TO THE PROS.
Communicate any allergies with your SYTA student tour operator. They’ll work on your behalf to ensure any attractions or restaurants on your itinerary are aware of any student allergies and can work out alternative plans well in advance. They can also communicate back to you any additional information you’ll want to keep in mind. Remember to double check with staff upon arrival.

DEMONSTRATE AND ENCOURAGE EMPATHY.
Ultimately, in addition to planning for every possible outcome before your trip, it’s important to have empathy for those students with allergies. It’s not uncommon for students to get picked on for “being different” and not being able to eat what everyone else gets to. Encourage all students to be kind and to simply ask questions if they’re curious. If a student needs to eat at a certain time or from a different plate of food, consider asking some other students to volunteer to eat an allergen-friendly meal alongside their classmate.

By preparing for the worst, you lessen the chances of an allergy-related event happening. And if it does, you’ll be confident enough to stay calm and know exactly what to do.

Additional tips for traveling with allergies:

  • Know where your nearest hospital is at all times.
  • If traveling abroad where a different language is spoken, ensure you and your students know how to communicate if they have an allergy, in addition to knowing how to ask for help or assistance.
  • Suggest students with allergies bring their own snacks in case delays or other unexpected events occur.

This story was written by Sarah Suydam for Teach & Travel’s January issue.

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