Parents with kids who have allergies are accustomed to avoiding certain foods or substances at home. But a new set of concerns arises when traveling. "Things you may not think of can cause a reaction and make your child pretty miserable," says Dr. Neeti Gupta, allergy and immunology fellow at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Pollen: Depending on local climate, trees start producing pollen anytime from midwinter to late spring; summer tends to be the season in which grass allergies are a problem; ragweed issues occur in late summer and fall. Consult the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (aaaai.org) to scout pollen counts in U.S. cities.
Mold: Stay only in well-ventilated lodging. Be extra vigilant if you're vacationing in a humid climate; mold counts are also listed at aaaai.org.
Insects and Mites: Fire ants, found in the Southeast and Southwest, can produce life-threatening anaphylaxis in people who are allergic--and most folks don't know they're allergic until they're bitten. As a defense, wear long pants and ankle-high boots and use bug spray. For added protection, tuck your child's pants into her socks. (See fireant.tamu.edu for more precautions.) To control pests, some farms import Asian ladybugs--which can trigger itchy eyes and congestion in people who are allergic to cockroaches. Ladybugs can be a problem especially if you're staying at a farm. If your child is allergic to dust mites, bring anti-mite pillowcases. Also, request a hotel room that's never hosted pets.
Eating Out: Chain restaurants often specify on menus whether nuts or other allergy-causing foods are used. Mom-and-pop joints will be less likely to list problematic ingredients--but if everything's homemade, they'll know what's in each dish. Always mention your child's allergies to your servers and have them double-check ingredients with the cook.
Sensitive Skin: Bring your own shampoo, soap, and sunscreen, because an unfamiliar brand might cause a reaction.