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Nut allergies and travelling

One in 100 people in the UK suffer from a nut allergy and if you’re one of them, you’ll be used to dealing with the condition as part of your everyday life.

But when you go on holiday, it’s essential to take extra care if you’re eating unfamiliar food. You’ll also want to know that if something does go wrong, your Travel Insurance covers your existing allergy to nuts or other food.

John Brady, Head of Commercial at John Lewis Insurance answers your questions about food allergies and how this affects your
Travel Insurance.

Q & A with John Brady

Q. What’s your background and what experience do you have in providing advice about Travel Insurance?

A I've worked in financial services for 20 years, including banking, credit cards and insurance. The last five have been spent at the John Lewis Partnership, where I’ve helped to launch and develop John Lewis Insurance, including our personal insurance cover for cars, weddings, pets, homes, events and of course, travel. I love travelling and know how important it is to feel happy that any potential health problems are covered by Travel Insurance if you’re
off on holiday.

Quotation MarksAlthough you need to take extra care on holiday, John Lewis Travel Insurance does cover you for any medical treatment you need as a result of nut allergies.Quotation Marks

Q. What are the symptoms of a
nut allergy?

A. Reactions can vary from mild to very severe, which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction:

  • Tingling mouth and lips
  • Swollen face
  • Feeling sick
  • Rash or hives
  • Stomach pains
  • A tight feeling around your throat

Symptoms of a more severe allergic reaction can include all of the above, plus:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing due to an asthma-like attack, or swelling around your throat
  • A nervous, worried feeling
  • Dilation (opening up) of your blood vessels, which can cause redness of your skin, fast heart rate and low blood pressure, which can cause you to feel faint or collapse

Q. How will I know if I’m allergic to nuts?

A. Often, you’ll experience symptoms very quickly - usually within an hour of having come into contact with a nut and sometimes within minutes. If you have a reaction more than four hours later, it’s unlikely to be a nut allergy and could be something else. About a third of people will have an initial reaction to the nut, followed by a second reaction between one and eight hours later. So if you’re taken to hospital after an allergic reaction, it’s important to stay there
for observation.

Q. What should I do if I have an allergic reaction?

A. Act fast, especially if you have a severe reaction (called anaphylaxis) as you may become unconscious if it’s not treated quickly. A small number of people die every year as a result of this kind of severe reaction, usually because they do not get treatment quickly enough. If you think you are having an anaphylactic reaction you need to call an ambulance straightaway and get immediate medical help.

Q. If I know I have a nut allergy, what does this mean for my
Travel Insurance?

A. With John Lewis Travel Insurance, food allergies are covered as standard and you don’t need to declare it to us before you buy a policy. We can also cover a wide variety of pre-existing medical conditions provided you make us aware of them when you take out your policy. See a full list here.

Q. What precautions should I take if I’m travelling abroad?

A. Talk to your doctor before you go and get them to prescribe any antihistamines or adrenaline injections you’ll need for the trip. Carry them with you at all times, and tell anyone travelling with you how to use them in case they need to act quickly if you have an allergic reaction.

Although you still want to enjoy your holiday, you need to be extra cautious about what you eat. If you’re in a restaurant, be aware of the language barrier and don’t rely on asking the waiter or waitress if dishes contain nuts – they may not understand the question. Always carry a snack that’s safe for you so you won’t be tempted to try something that may contain nuts or any other food that you’re allergic to. Things that may be safe at home might be made with different ingredients abroad – for example, some brands of American chocolate and biscuits may contain nuts even if their European equivalents don’t. Stick to plain food wherever possible and think about cross-contamination if you’re eating in a restaurant that uses nuts elsewhere
on the menu.

Q. I have a nut allergy and I’m about to book my holiday. What are the main things I should consider?

A. Here are a few sensible steps to put your mind at rest before you head off:

  • Sort out your insurance when you book your holiday – your nut allergy is covered with John Lewis Travel Insurance.
  • Go to the doctor and stock up on any medication you need for the trip.
  • Think about what you’re going to eat abroad. Do a bit of research about local food, and make sure you have nut-free snacks to take with you.
  • Tell anyone you’re travelling with about your allergies, and what to do if an attack happens

For further tips and advice, please see our quick guide (PDF).

John Lewis Travel Insurance homepage

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