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For parents of children with severe allergies, planning is key before travel. Start with these tips.

Contact the airlines ahead of time. When you book your flight, tell the airline and ask about its policies.

For instance, if your child is allergic to peanuts, are those served during the flight? If so, are there zones on the plane for people who won't be eating peanuts? Or if your child is allergic to pet dander, will there be pets flying with passengers?

Fly early. Allergen levels tend to be lowest early in the day because most airlines clean their planes at the end of the business day. So select a morning or first flight out when possible.

Plan to bring your own food. That's the best way for you to know exactly what's in it and how it was prepared. For example, even if an airline doesn't serve peanuts, the meals they serve may be prepared in kitchens where peanut products are also prepared.

Contact your hotel before your stay. If your child has food allergies, find a hotel that offers rooms with kitchens. With a kitchen available, you won't have to eat all of your family meals in restaurants.

If your child is sensitive to dust mites, you might consider bringing your own mattress covers. If your child is allergic to mold, ask for a room far from any swimming pools.  

Talk to your hosts. Staying with friends or relatives? Tell them ahead of time about your child's allergies. Then they will know not to offer your child foods that include any of his or her allergy triggers. Of course, if your child is allergic to cats or dogs, you should avoid staying with friends or relatives who have pets.

Call ahead before you dine. If food allergies are the issue, go online to check out menus, ask the hotel staff for recommendations in the town you're going to, and call the restaurant. With advance notice, many chefs will prepare dishes that meet their customers' allergy needs.

Locate the closest hospital. You probably won't need it, but it may make you feel better to have the name and address of the hospital closest to where you are staying.

Make an appointment with your child’s doctor. Schedule an appointment with your child’s allergist within a month before your trip, making sure her health is good and all medication is up to date.