Traveling with Celiac: Using a Doctor’s Note

Traveling with Celiac DiseaseWhen I went to Singapore two weeks ago, I did something for the very first time. I traveled with a doctor’s note. I had only read about using a note in the past, but figured it was worth a shot. Some might ask why a doctor’s note? For me, it was to ensure that my food was not confiscated during a long weekend of travel. With both Celiac disease and a shellfish allergy, I brought a lot of food with me for my week in Singapore. I wanted to make sure this food would be with me from start to finish. I also hoped I would have some food to eat on my way home.

In my carry-on bag, I had sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and lots of snacks. I also had two frozen ice packs to keep my food cold. In my suitcase, I had more snacks, tuna pouches, jerky, quinoa, and more. I didn’t want anyone to think I was smuggling food, nor did I want to go hungry. I had a doctor’s note in both my carry-on bag and on top of the food in my suitcase in case it was opened at any point in transit.

I am happy to say that I did not have any food removed from my bags nor did I have to use my doctor’s note. I was asked about one item at one of my security checkpoints (I forget which country I was in at the time) but I mentioned my doctor’s note for the food and that was all I had to say. It was a huge relief to have all of my food with me for the 19+ hours of transit.

Here is an example of my note.

To Whom It May Concern:

Erin Smith is a female who suffers from celiac (coeliac) disease and has a shellfish allergy. These conditions make it medically necessary for her to carry gluten-free food with her always. In addition to the gluten-free products, she has ice packs in her bag(s) to keep her food cold for international travel to Singapore.

Ms. Smith is also an asthmatic and requires use of an albuterol inhaler in the event of an asthma attack or allergic reaction. Please allow Erin to carry her albuterol inhaler aboard the plane in her pocketbook.

Sincerely,
Dr. R, MD FAAFP
email address
phone number

The letter was also put on my primary care doctor’s letterhead with her signature. I printed off two copies, one for my carry-on and one for my suitcase, and also kept one in my pocketbook just in case. As I stated above, I never had to physically use my letter but did mention it to one security agent along the way.

Will a letter like this work every time? Probably not. Is it better to have it than to be hungry? You bet!

Looking for more ideas about traveling with a doctor’s note? Check out the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team Sample Doctor/Allergist Letter here.

I think it is important to remember that gluten-free food is our medicine when living with celiac disease and should be treated that way all the time and not just in travel. You can read more about traveling with medication on the TSA website.

Have you ever used a doctor’s note when traveling with gluten-free food? What did it say? Leave your comments below!

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About Erin Smith

Living with celiac disease since 1981 and eating gluten-free long before it was "trendy", Erin Smith has a unique perspective of growing up in the gluten-free community; Founded Gluten-Free Fun in 2007; Founded Gluten-Free Globetrotter® in 2011; Founded GlutenFreelancer® in 2014. Erin was the lead organizer of the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup group, a social community of more than 2,000 members for over a decade and has recently started a support group in Northern California.
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