Travelling to the far corners of the world has never been more accessible; the thought of being able to experience new cultures, push yourself out of your comfort zone and take on ‘bucket list’ style challenges has seen some of us reaching for the passport and packing a bag. However, when you’re living with a severe allergy to nuts, going on a trip of a lifetime can be a daunting prospect.
Going on a ten-day trek through the Wahabi desert would be a challenge for most of us with 4am wake up calls, five hours of walking a day and being miles away from civilisation. 16-year-old Aadam had another thing to think about on top on this, a severe allergy to nuts. Aadam is a pupil at The Manchester Grammar School, when we asked why he chose this school trip Aadam’s response was simple “I hadn’t been on a trek like this and I wanted to make the most of this opportunity”. Aadam had been on many of his school’s trips in the past including visits to New York, Spain and Washington DC. This however was a new ball game and one that required some incredibly careful planning.
First of all, how would Aadam store his life saving medication? Aadam knew that his medication needed to be stored at a certain temperature in an air tight container and opened each night to let fresh cool air into the flask; “I kept my adrenaline pen and anti-histamine in a flask, a really good flask”. Aadam’s mum Rozina had an idea to test whether or not the flask would work and with the help of the biology department at the school they put its ability to the test; ”I knew the biology department had an incubator, we decided to put the flask in the incubator at 30 degrees for 8 hours”, Aadam said. The test was a success and Aadam was over the first hurdle. Anaphylaxis Campaign always recommends speaking to your GP or pharmacist before you travel regarding your specific medication*
With Aadam trekking for five hours non-stop a day it was recommended that he would need to consume 2,800 calories. Aadam’s friends all knew about his allergies and as a precaution for his safety, the school had requested that no tree nuts were to be brought on the trip. However this couldn’t be said for the food being prepared locally.
Originally the plan was for Aadam’s dad, who is based in Dubai, to go to Oman and speak to the Bedouin cooks about the food. However, due to the absence of ingredients labelling on locally sourced food, a lack of understanding around food allergies and a language barrier it was soon realised that this would not be possible. Plan A had not been successful, and it was clear that Aadam would need to bring 10 day’s worth of food to the desert.
Aadam and mum Rozina looked into a few options including dehydrated food before finding Expedition Foods, a company that produced pre-packed trek food in a nut-free environment. The food was transportable and all Aadam needed to do was add water. Aadam and Rozina sat down before the trip and put together a calendar to mark out what Aadam would eat each day to make sure he was getting the correct calorie intake and having a good variety of tastes. Aadam also tried every meal before he went with mum Rozina saying “I wanted to see every meal he was taking pass his lips” Plan C was a success and Aadam was ready to go on a trek of a life time!
For Aadam, the best things about the trip were having fun with his friends and the walking they did each day. While in the Wahabi desert Aadam visit a Bedouin school and stayed overnight in a Bedouin house. When asked if he was nervous about going into the desert with a severe allergy Aadam answered “prevention is key, so instead of dealing with the problem prevent it from happening” incredibly wise words!
Aadam’s advice if you’re considering travelling with an allergy is be prepared! Have a plan A,B and C “You can’t just rock up on the day and hope everything will be ok you need to take all the necessary precautions”.
We’re so grateful to Adam for sharing his story with us and his top tips for travelling and we look forward to seeing what other adventures Aadam does in the future!
*We always recommend speaking to your GP and Pharmacist before travelling with a severe allergy or anaphylaxis. All patients are different, and specific cases need specific advice. There is no substitute for good medical advice provided by a medical professional.