Trying foods from different cultures is one part of what makes travelling so exciting!
Slurping the slow-cooked broth used in Japanese ramen, folding a proper New York slice, tucking into an authentic Greek gyro, or tasting another local specialty can be the cherry on top of a great day of sightseeing!
Of course, not everyone can enjoy a local dish overseas without worrying about the ingredients, and the possible reaction they’ll have if they eat it.
Food allergies and food intolerances are among some of the most common medical conditions. If you have a food allergy to gluten or seafood for example, it can mean putting more time and effort into planning your holiday and where you’ll eat.
As for travel insurance, it is possible to find a policy that will provide you with cover in the event that your food allergy or intolerance causes a medical emergency.
Safety tips for travelling with a food allergy or intolerance:
- Research the local cuisine before you travel and make a list of local restaurants to visit and foods you should avoid.
- Organise your regular medications so that you have more than enough for your holiday plus extra in case you get delayed coming home.
- Print out translation cards which explain what you can’t eat. This can save you a lot of time ordering in restaurants!
- Notify your chosen airline, tour operator, or your accommodation that you have an allergy or intolerance.
- Pack some safe snacks to take with you on daytrips in case you can’t find a restaurant or café that will cater to you.
Can travel insurance cover my food allergy?
There are many food allergies and intolerances out there. The most common allergies include sensitivities to lactose, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish and gluten.
Can travel insurance cover your allergy? In some cases, the answer is yes.
However, even if they are mild or non-life threatening, food allergies are considered a pre-existing medical condition by travel insurers.
When it comes to providing cover for food allergies and food intolerances, you’ll find that travel insurers generally fall into one of these three categories:
1) Cover is automatically included for intolerances and allergies
You’ll find that some food intolerances and allergies are automatically covered at no additional charge. This means that if you have a medical emergency related to your food intolerance or allergy, you’ll have cover for the emergency medical expenses overseas.
For example, Fast Cover policies automatically cover allergies limited to Rhinitis, Chronic Sinusitis, Eczema, Hay Fever, Coeliac Disease as well as food intolerances.
2) Cover for allergies can be included for an additional premium
Some allergies and intolerances aren’t automatically covered by travel insurance due to the risks of a serious medical emergency occurring. However, there may be an option to pay an additional premium to get cover for the condition, usually after a medical assessment.
3) Cover isn’t included for allergies
The travel insurance policy does not provide any cover for the allergy or intolerance you have. However, you may still have cover for unrelated overseas emergency medical expenses and other non-medical benefits.
You can find out if your food intolerance or allergy is covered by reading the travel insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).
Ariel’s travel insurance provided cover for Coeliac disease*
Ariel was travelling in Southeast Asia with friends when her Coeliac disease started causing her to feel faint, develop skin rashes and abdominal pain.
It was worse than she’d experienced before, so she went to hospital to be treated and monitored.
Because she had travel insurance that automatically included cover for Coeliac disease in place, her hospital bills were covered.
Please Note: Fast Cover automatically provides cover for pre-existing Coeliac disease as one of 43 automatically covered pre-existing conditions.
Does it cost extra to get cover for a food allergy in travel insurance?
It depends on the travel insurance company and the type of policy you purchase.
If food allergies and food intolerances are automatically included in your travel insurance policy, it won’t cost you any extra to have them covered.
If the condition is not automatically covered, you may be able to purchase cover for an additional premium.
What kind of overseas medical emergencies will travel insurance cover?
Most travellers are diligent and will take steps to avoid risks overseas, especially when it comes to pre-existing medical conditions.
However, travel insurance is there to cover your emergency overseas medical expenses in case something unexpected does go wrong.
If you experience a severe allergic reaction or require medical treatment due to a food intolerance, a relevant travel insurance policy may provide cover for the unexpected costs.
This could include cover for:
- A doctor’s consultation fee
- Hospitalisation fees
- Emergency medical transport costs overseas
- Emergency medical treatment expenses overseas
- Cancellation costs if you are unable to continue your holiday
- Emergency evacuation
- Repatriation home under medical supervision if required
What travel insurance exclusions apply to food intolerances and allergic reactions?
If your food allergy or intolerance is covered by your policy, there may be one exclusion in particular to be aware of: putting yourself at greater risk of injury.
There are different risks at different destinations, and for the most part you can navigate these easily with a bit of research and preparation. Some decisions, however, can put you at greater risk.
For example, drinking alcohol to excess or taking illicit drugs puts you at greater risk of injuring yourself or being targeted by an opportunistic thief. Dangerous activities, such as running with the bulls in Spain, also put you at greater risk. If you act irresponsibly and become sick or injured as a direct result, you may not be covered by your travel insurance policy.
In the same way, if you have a food allergy or intolerance, you are expected to prepare for the challenges this brings while travelling and take necessary steps to avoid putting yourself at greater risk.
If you take regular prescription medications for a pre-existing medical condition, you should take enough with you to last the trip and a few extra days, just in case your return transport is delayed.
Research your destination before you travel and prepare a list of the foods you should avoid before you go to lower your risk of becoming sick on your holiday.
Preparing an allergy translation card may also help make things easier when ordering food in restaurants and cafes.
Travelling with an allergy translation card
An allergy translation card is a fast and simple way to make eating overseas safer and easier. There are various websites you can search to find an allergy card that describes your allergy in the language spoken at your destination. You can buy them, print them out, or keep a digital copy on your phone to show staff when ordering at restaurants or cafes.
Some things to keep in mind when choosing an allergy card, or putting one together yourself:
- Get allergy cards for the language or languages that dominate the region you’re travelling in. There may be more than one language! Also, keep in mind that pronunciation may vary between different regions. For example, Shanghainese sounds very different to Chinese Mandarin.
- Get cards that provide examples of foods you can’t eat. This is particularly useful if your allergy isn’t widely known at your destination. Gluten intolerance, for example, is not as widely known in Japan as it is in Australia.
- Know a few basic meals or foods you can eat in the local language, so that you always have something to fall back on!
- Ensure you can recognise the word that describes your allergy in the local language to help avoid buying products with ingredients you could be allergic to.
Allergy Translation.com is an excellent resource to create your own allergy translation cards in any language.
Food intolerances and allergies shouldn’t hold you back from exploring the world. You just need to be a bit more prepared!
Before you travel, make sure you purchase travel insurance that will provide cover for your food intolerances and allergies. Always ask about anything you’re not sure about and read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure you understand what is and isn’t covered by the policy.
Fast Cover travel insurance provides cover for 43 pre-existing medical conditions automatically.
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*Stories are fictitious examples drawn from the experiences of Fast Cover travellers and staff. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.