Traveling with Allergies

Have you found yourself in a “pickle”, trying to weigh pros and cons and decide whether or not you will be able to travel safe? Ever turned down opportunities without trying to find a work around for your food allergies?

Here’s an article I wrote for the AAIA a few yrs ago, that is still very valid. Have a read, let me know what you think! =)

A Lifetime of Experiences – By Erika Ladouceur


Two safe flights to start our vacation off on the right track! Thank you WestJet!

When you are planning a trip whether it be for vacation or other, what are you most concerned about? For me it’s the flight. The idea of being so high up and far from any hospital has always frightened me, though, when I fly WestJet, this seems to dissipate… 🙂

Tuesday morning my boyfriend, Mike and I headed to the airport. We were heading to Montreal for a week to visit family. We printed our tickets and went to the bag drop off counter where we were greeted by a smiling WestJet employee. I mentioned that I had severe, life-threatening allergies to peanuts, and all other nuts as well as allergies to cats and dogs. She was very understanding and made specific notes in the computer about my allergies as I explained to her that I would be wearing a mask and had 2 Epi-pens and an inhaler that I would keep in the seat pocket in front of me.  I felt less concerned about our trip already!

We then headed to security. In my mind, going through security was step 2 of the “flying with allergies process”. I had a large ziploc bag containing all my prescription medications (Epi-pens and inhalers) and antihistamines along with the actual receipts in my name. Once through security, we headed for the gate and I went straight up to the counter to speak with a WestJet gate agent about my allergies and asthma.

I was greeted by another smile and VERY understanding WestJet employee. She checked our flight and confirmed that there would be one small pet on board, but it would be at the back of the plane, so far from us in aisle 8. I smiled and thanked her for the info. I asked if she wouldn’t mind looking into our connecting flight from Toronto to Montreal and she assured me she was already looking into it to see if there were pets on board that one. I was told that as of yet, there were no pets on that flight. As our seats were in the back of the plane, she asked if we would mind here moving us to aisle 3, mentioning that they try to book the passengers with pets at the back of the plane in the last few rows. I thanked her and gave her Mike’s boarding pass and she moved both of us! I then asked if we could pre-board so we could clean the seats, arm rests and tables and she confirmed we could do so without a problem and even asked if we needed any cleaning supplies to do so! I was extremely pleased to have yet another great conversation with WestJet personnel.

We pre-boarded with the others and I spoke to the flight attendant that greeted us upon boarding the plane. I said “Hi, my name is Erika, I am the passenger with the severe allergy to peanuts and nuts. I will be wearing a mask and will have my 2 Epi-pens and my inhaler in the seat pocket in front of me” they asked me if it would be ok for them to make an announcement to all passengers on the flight and I expressed gratitude for them offering to do so. We went to our seats, cleaned all the surfaces and I put on my mask. I was ready to fly!

Once the plane was full, the flight attendants made their safety speech and in a separate message, they mentioned that there was a passenger aboard who had a severe allergy to peanuts and nuts and asked that passengers refrained from eating nuts on the flight for “her” safety. More points for West Jet! And I was surprised to hear the same recorded message in French! Under the mask I was smiling. 🙂 They also spoke one on one with the passengers in the rows next to me to confirm they understood the severity, and checked on me throughout the duration of the flight.

We arrived in Toronto with only a few minutes to spare before our next plane would take off, literally 5 minutes. In this case, pre-boarding was NOT an option as we were one of the last ones to board. When we got to the gate, the West Jet employee scanned my boarding pass and said, “we were looking for you and wanted to ask whether your allergy was only to peanuts or if it was all nuts”. I confirmed it was all nuts and she told me to simply identify myself to the flight attendant when we boarded the plane, that they were already aware of my situation. I gave a similar intro to the flight attendant as I had on the previous flight and they were extremely understanding and confirmed they would make an announcement in both languages. They made an announcement and we had a second safe and relaxing flight!

We arrived in Montreal, I took the mask off and was good to go. Every flight I have had with WestJet has been memorable (in a good way) and I choose WestJet whenever I can because they get it. They are amazing! All West Jet personnel I have ever dealt with have been keen to please and make me feel confident and safe while travelling. If you are looking for a relaxing trip in the sky, where you are not panicked about people eating nuts right next to you, I HIGHLY recommend WestJet! And you are also bound to get a few good chuckles as the flight attendants tend to make some good jokes! 🙂

Flying with a Mask

As a follow-up to last night’s post, I thought I might share what flying is for me, with my allergies. When I was younger, I flew several times, and after most flights I would always feel like my immune system had been taxed. Usually resulting in a cold or a period of time where I was more sensitive to allergens or my chest was tight.

About 3 years ago, I finally convinced myself that flying with a mask on was the best idea ever. As I had moved across the country for my studies, going home to visit family in Montreal meant for a long flight. I do not recall exactly when my first flight wearing a mask may have been, however this minor detail does not really mean much to me, as the fact of the matter is that I have found a way to reduce my symptoms. Wearing a mask (N-95 in my case) was definitely tough at first, however after even just one flight, the idea of wearing a mask no longer “got to me” as I felt so much better not being exposed to dander from pets on-board.

Being a young adult, I was extremely self-conscious about appearance and what everyone would think of me. Nowadays, when I prepare to take the air plane, I always make sure I have 2 masks with me, so I can switch mid-flight. This has become routine and knowing I have these with me, makes me feel safer when I board the plane. I no longer worry what others think of me, when they pass me on the plane. I smile (behind my mask), sit back and relax for the ride.

Sneeze-free on the Airplane!

Traveling with allergies and asthma can be tricky, and tiresome, though I now have many funny stories to share. How do you manage your allergies when flying? Do you call the airlines ahead of time? Have you seen any difference with one airlines’s willingness to assist you over another? I would have to say that I have answered yes to all of the above.