ASK THE ALLERGISTA: How do you eat out/travel with propylene glycol and nickel allergies?

Q:

 My husband and I have a two week trip planned to Alabama in January. Since my skin is still so reactive to my allergies to propylene glycol and nickel, I am reluctant to go. I just don't know how I can eat at restaurants. Because PG is sprayed on produce, I can't order salads or items with peppers, tomatoes, etc. Milk products (except organic) don't agree with me, so cheese is out. PG is also in all kinds of marinades, dressings, sauces, baked goods, etc. At the family restaurants near my house, chicken breasts are already marinated when they are delivered. I can only think of one "safe" food--a plain hamburger with no butter on the bread. Any ideas for me?

I am also concerned with the cleaners used in hotel rooms. Do I have to respray faucets, sinks, etc. with vinegar and water to get off cleaning solutions that may have been used containing PG? What about the fumes in the room?

Any advice for traveling is very much appreciated--thank you!

A:

First of all - love Alabama!! I lived in the northeast corner for a couple years as a teen and still have people down there who are like family.

Moving on...I feel your pain. I have both of these allergies and at this point, I'm happy to say that I'm definitely comfortable with traveling. When it comes to food, I bring my own snacks and drinks. I talk to the hotel ahead of time and make sure they put a mini fridge in the room for me. This has never been an extra charge. Many rooms already come with one, but there was at least one time where they had to put one in for me. I also check out which restaurants are nearby. I look at their menus and usually decide what I'll get ahead of time. Hotel restaurants have been very accommodating with my allergies as well. My go-to types of food on vacations are Asian food or places with a grill. I can usually get plain food at places like this. When I go for Asian food, Japanese menus usually have the most simple options: sushi, steamed edamame, plain rice and steamed mixed veggies. At grills, if it's a nice enough restaurant, they have plain meat that can be brushed with something simple like olive oil and garlic. Plain meat and veggies can easily be thrown into a pan with olive oil... it all depends on how good of a restaurant it is unfortunately.

As far as the pg-being-sprayed-on-produce issue... this has never been a problem for me and I'm pretty allergic to propylene glycol. As long as the produce is washed, I don't worry about it. If you can find some organic produce, obviously go with that. I'd be interested to know if you react to produce that's been sprayed with pg, but washed before eating... that would mean that you are extra ultra sensitive.

If you really are reacting to pg on produce, I'd bring your own food. See if you can score a hotel room with a kitchenette and cook your own meals. When I went down to Alabama two summers ago, I stayed with people I knew, bought food at the grocery store and cooked. We went out to eat once and I ordered salad with extra virgin olive oil dressing. Actually, I went out to eat twice - the second time was at an Asian buffet, so it was easy to stick to rice, steamed veggies and stuff like that. 

When I've stayed in hotel rooms, I bring my own bedding (because of my allergy to synthetics) and I pretty much don't touch anything in the room... this sounds more difficult than it actually is. I can sit anywhere on the bed because I've changed the bedding and if I sit at the desk which is so often in hotel rooms, I just don't rest my arms on the chair or desk. If I'm wearing shorts, I put down a towel or blanket so I'm not actually touching it. In the bathroom, I use the small towels to turn on faucets and to touch other metal/possibly nickel objects. I also bring some bandannas and cotton gloves with me for stuff like this. It's good to have options! This nickel testing kit is useful as well.

I haven't had issues with fumes in hotel rooms... more-so with dust. Check around with the hotels and see if they offer any allergy services. A lot of them are cooperative when it comes to allergies. I always ask that my bed be stripped of all bedding and sheets before I get there because I A) don't want to touch it and B) don't want all that extra bedding taking up space in the room. Nobody has ever been difficult with my requests. You could ask that they wipe down with water after using their chemical products... that's a thought.

I hope this helps and that it's given you hope that you CAN travel and actually enjoy yourself. All it takes is a little extra planning and creativity.

Have a wonderfully awesome time!

Sincerely,

The Allergista