Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Travelling with a child with allergies to America with Virgin Atlantic

We hope that this blog post will be useful to people as we share our experience of travelling to Orlando with a child with nut allergies.

When we first started planning the trip last year we were surprised about the lack of information regarding taking medicine including an Epi-pen on a flight.  Judging by the number of post on Netmums this is clearly an important issue.

Our child is allergic to both walnuts and pecans and avoids eating them and coming in contact with them.  Following a bad allergic reaction requiring hospital treatment when he was younger he carries a bottle of Piriton (antihistamine) and an Epi-pen with him.

The main questions we needed help with were:
  • Will there be any issues taking Piriton (a liquid) and an Epi-pen on a flight?
  • What documentation should we take with us?
  • What information should we tell the airline?
  • Will this affect our travel insurance?
This is what we found out and a summary of our experiences.  We would definitely recommend your own research before you travel.

Will there be any issues taking Piriton (a liquid) and an Epi-pen on a flight?

Before we travelled we requested a new prescription for the Piriton as his old bottle had expired.  Conscious of the 100ml rule we didn't want to take the standard 150ml bottle on the flight.  Our local pharmacy were more than accommodating in splitting the bottle into two 75ml batches in smaller 100ml bottles.  Both were clearly labelled with all the relevant information.  We also requested a second prescription to take with us incase we had to buy more.  We put both bottles into small zip-lock sandwich bags and both myself and my wife took one bag each in our hand luggage.  We also put the epi-pen along with a duplicate prescription in a zip-lock bag and had in our hand luggage. 

What documentation should we take with us?

In addition to the duplicate prescriptions we obtained a letter from our GP outlining the medical condition our son has and the required medication.  We had to pay £25 for this.  We took photocopies of all our prescriptions and made sure that we both had copies in our hand luggage.

What information should we tell the airline?

Approximately two months before we travelled we emailed Virgin special assistance at special_assistance@fly.virgin.com where we outlined our son's issues.  We had a very nice reply back.  They double checked that we had requested a nut friendly meal for both the outward and return flight.

Will this affect our travel insurance?

We took out travel insurance with Tesco travel insurance and this did not complicate or change the premium for us.  We were asked the standard questions of which we were able to say "No" to everything.  At the end of the questions we explained about our son's allergy and because it did not answer "yes" at any point it was not considered an issue.  We definitely think you should mention any issues like this even if it is not flagged up by the questionnaire. A simple visit to the ER for a child could easily cost more than $2000.

Our experience of the flight

Outward travel through Gatwick was simple and we experienced no delays at security.  With the liquids being in 100ml bottles and the Epi-pen clearly visible we were not stopped or even questioned about it.  The Virgin crew came and checked which child was having the nut friendly meal and these were served separately.  The staff were very careful about checking with us at every food serving.  The only downside to the nut friendly meal was not being able to have the children's meal.

Coming back from America

We had no problems at all coming back through the TSA security checks at Orlando airport. The TSA agents didn't ask us for any documentation and were very happy for us to carry through the medicines in our hand luggage.

Final thoughts

We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to take our son into America even with his Epi-Pen and his medication.  I do think the key to this is preplanning and having everything you need with you.

Check list

  • Eli-Pen packed in hand luggage in a zip-lock bag
  • Liquid medicine in bottles less than 100ml
  • Spare prescription and photocopy 
  • Doctor's letter
  • Email airline

This is based on our experience and research.  It is always worth discussing this with your own doctor.