Travelling abroad when you have allergies and or coeliac disease to contend with is a pretty daunting task. You don’t want to let it spoil your fun, but you know you need to feel confident enough to find the foods you will need, as inevitably you will be mostly self-catering, as eating out is scary enough at home.
Before we went to Spain a few weeks ago, I had a look on the websites of the supermarkets I know out there to see if I could find some gluten free, dairy free brands. It looked like there was a good selection so I felt relatively comfortable. I still packed a good selection of bread rolls, bread sticks, biscuits, crackers and breakfast cereal – just to get us through the early days. I knew that dairy free was easy enough to manage, as Zac was DF last time we were there. The gluten free thing came on since then, and that was what worried me the most.
As usual, I was quite disorganised in the run up to the holiday and did not get round to ordering any translation cards – http://www.allergyuk.org/getting-help/translation-cards But as I did a bit of Spanish at University, I thought I could probably work most of it out for myself. To be honest I am sure there must be a translation app for it, but I never bothered to look. Oops.
I was so nervous before we went on holiday. Would I be able to find enough dairy free, gluten free foods, to be able to get by? Would I be able to make enough room in the suitcase to take a good supply to get us through the first few days? Are you allowed to take a packed lunch in hand luggage? Since we had last travelled abroad Zac’s diet has become a lot more restricted and I had never faced these issues before.
Fortunately my parents had been out to Spain just before us and did a good search around the supermarkets and found a decent selection of bread, pasta, breakfast cereal, milk and yoghurts. We were self catering, so I had pretty much resigned myself to doing a lot of cooking from scratch whilst away. Eating out at home is challenging enough and even though I have some good basic Spanish, I just couldn’t face asking those questions and trying explain his condition every time we ate out. So instead I would cook for him before we went out, and take a few healthy snacks for him to enjoy, if the rest of us were eating later.
Packing for a holiday. Never an easy task. When you have an allergic/intolerant member of the family that task becomes even more tricky as you have to set aside room in the cases for ‘safe foods’. Although dairy free and gluten free foods are widely available, even in Spain, as I discovered recently, you still want to have a few favourites ready to eat as soon you as you land. It is easy enough to manage the little packed lunch, but what about meals?
Whilst visiting the Allergy Show I happened upon a new brand that looked like a very good solution to this little problem. http://www.ilumiworld.com/ Ilumi make ambient ready meals that are free from gluten, milk and nut free. The food comes in handy little packs and the meals range includes: thai red chicken curry, chicken casserole, beef chilli, beef meatballs in tomato sauce and spanish style rice, as well as a variety of sauces, gravies and soups. The prices range for £1.50 for a sauce to £3.50 for a meal. The food is available to buy direct from their website http://www.ilumiworld.com/products Delivery is free and super fast. The website is very informative and includes sections on: their story, their cooking methods, diet/lifestyle and they also have a ‘magazine’ section, which I thought was very interesting.
Before we went away, I blogged about Zac’s skin infections. He had a nasty one on his thigh, one in his ear and then one in his finger nail bed. All required anti-biotics. The ear one burst without ‘assistance’ but the leg and finger nail required some ‘home surgery’ by my husband under the advice of the nurse and with the help of the sterile needles she supplied! Nasty.
There is still quite a livid mark on his thigh nearly six weeks later. The finger nail eventually fell off and a new one is growing. But while these were busy healing Zac was bitten on the back of his other leg. This was during the final week of term at school. Very quickly the bite ‘changed’ and went out of control. I can now recognise the signs and went marching back to the doctors for more anti-biotics and that is where it all went a bit wrong.
Summer holidays, at home and abroad – never easy with an allergic/intolerant child. We have had a particularly lively couple of months. We have had skin infections, ear infections, nail bed infections, allergic reactions to insect bites, accidental anti-biotics overdose from a reckless GP, travels abroad, an allergic reaction to an ice lolly in Spain and vomiting episode in the arrivals hall at Luton Airport. Makes you want to stay at home! But we don’t, we press on and try and be normal – because you have to don’t you?
So where to start. I think I will have to publish our summer adventures as a series of posts and this can just be the introduction. It isn’t all wallowing though – we have had some fun, and I was particularly impressed to see how easy gluten free food was to find in Spain, so there are many positives to be highlighted too. I have also been in touch with some new ‘allergy friends’ and am setting up a series of podcasts and interviews with some really interesting people from our allergic ‘universe’.
I also owe you some food reviews. Since the Allergy Show I have been in touch with several of the exhibitors there and have been lucky enough to receive some lovely free samples to review and share. It has only been just over a year since I set up the blog but in the last few months, things seem to have really moved along and I can see now that there are loads of people out there just like us who are all working on various projects to help others navigate their way through the reality of coping with allergy and intolerance. It is starting to feel like there is a really great community pulling together and with a bit of effort and support we can probably start to make some progress and raise awareness of the issues we are all facing.