Traveling with Allergy Cards

I was looking for some multi-lingual no-gluten cards to take with me on my trip to Israel, when my sister called me with a new life-threatening allergy of her own.  I wanted to find a card that was customizable and would work for  multiple allergies for her and something that I could find in Hebrew and Arabic as well as English for me.  I looked over a variety of cards and thought that some would be of interest to those of you with allergies.

Translation cards are essential to your travel whether you have ended up somewhere where English is not spoken or, say, the Olympia Holiday Inn where complex verbal planning negotiations may only cover two of your three days stay because the chef has a night off. (And the cards will help in the hospital too!) Even if you know the language it might be difficult to convey the detail required.  These are cards in many languages and they will alert your server about your dietary restrictions. They help you bridge the communication gap and speak openly about your dietary needs without feeling like the characters on Portlandia.. You might want more than one to get your point across when traveling since they don’t have every conceivable situation on a single card. In my experience, most restaurant staff are happy to comply.  There are free cards and pay cards and probably more if you do an allergy card search on Google.

Free Translation Cards

Special Gourmets Chef Cards
A list of cards prepared for food allergens in English, Spanish and Portuguese only.. The cards were made the size of a credit card to make it easier to carry them in a wallet. You can personalize your cards online (or after printing them if you prefer) by writing on the back of the card  any hidden sources which may contain the allergen. (For instance, red wine vinegar can affect people with serious egg allergies from the clarifying process.)  However it was difficult to format the fields and you only get one allergy at a time. They had a graphic which could be handy if the waiter or chef isn’t literate.  I liked their design and especially liked the notes to the chef to wash cutting boards and knives, but would have needed a couple of cards, which defeats the purpose.  Hint to provider:  allow the front to be modified too so extra allergens can be added.
Free in English, Spanish, and Portuguese

Gluten-Free Passport Dining Sheets
These were pdf sheets and I liked them quite a lot, but was totally frustrated because I couldn’t get the right combination.  The statement lists several forms of gluten as well as the various forms it might be found (like flour coating meat before frying.)  .The languages they have print out in English on one side and your choice of Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latvian, Portuguese, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish on the other.  I printed the Arabic, which is great.  But when I tried Hebrew using the flag pictures at the bottom, it sent me to a Hebrew web site that had no English (just the aforementioned languages).  There were tiny flag buttons on the bottom with a US flag that sent me to Google Translate where I could get a legible translation but couldn’t print it out.  More on Google later. Free in 12 languages Translation Sheets
The gluten free restaurant sheets from are free but donations are suggested. They print out at 8 ½” x 11”, so I wouldn’t call them cards, but I did print out the sheets in Hebrew and Arabic.  One sheet per language, no translation to English, so I can’t tell you what they said. As of February 2012, these sheets are available in 51 languages.
Free Translation Card iPhone App
Same as above, but for your iPhone.  Don’t have one so I didn’t try it.

Google Translater:

I tried using Google Translate to print out some multi lingual sheets of my own, using English, Arabic and Hebrew based on the Gluten Free Passport wording.  Got a lovely translation (for one who doesn’t read the languages- caveat that Google Translate can do some crazy things).  But you can’t print it out.  So I decided to copy it into Word.  But copying made the formatting and language separation disappear, so I ended up with interlinear Hebrew/Arabic all in one column.  I  changed the format to two columns and got the interlinear Hebrew/Arabic on one side and pasted English in the other column.  Not optimal, but it will have to do.

Avery Business Cards Templates

For my sister, I ended up downloading a business card template from Avery.  I used the Special Gourmet Chef Cards as a guide, with a statement about the allergy and washing cutting boards on the front and a list of hidden or trouble foods on the back, and a couple graphics for the foods involved.  I used the “strong wording” about requiring emergency medical care, and of course I was able to include all her food allergies.  The layout is two columns of five cards.  I printed one column with the front, one with the back and will glue or laminate them together.  (If you are good at psyching out your printer it you can probably do it two sided.)  Requires business card stationary to punch out.  A sheet of 10 makes 5 cards.

I did try to put the Hebrew on a card, but the formatting was over my head.  So I’m using large sheets of paper, but she gets the cards.  Maybe I’ll play with the translation program some more.

Paid Translation Cards

I ended up not using any of these either, although I did like SelectWisely almost enough to order it.

SelectWisely provides health and travel translation cards and services to people with food allergies and other medical conditions. I actually liked their designs best but ended up not ordering them.  Cards can be used in foreign or local restaurants. Special medical conditions, special diets, single allergies, select multiple allergies, Gluten-Free, Tree nuts, Gluten-Free Asia & Europe cards, and Gluten-Free & Milk Allergy card available as well as a strongly worded card (important because some servers don’t understand you can end up in the hospital if your allergy is severe.)  Not every language works with every card and I couldn’t find Hebrew for gluten. Thre are special orders available but I didn’t have time.  While they have some dual allergy cards, they didn’t have egg and milk, which is pretty common.
Price varies but they run about $7.50 for a laminated card sent out in 2 days. 

Allergy Translation
The allergy cards were pretty basic but allowed you to list as many foods as you want from the 175 they have listed.  They also have free chef sheets which educate about cross-contamination in a variety of middle European, Slavic and Chinese languages. provides online food allergy and special diet language translations into a credit card-sized dietary card to be used to alert staff in restaurants, hotels and catered events and as a reference tool at grocery stores.  They also cover vegan, kosher and 9 other special diets but I didn’t see those cards.  I didn’t like needing to sign in to see what they have but you can evade it by clicking on the products button. .
$8 allows you to print out unlimited copies. 

Triumph Dining Cards
Order gluten-free and safely in ten languages: English, Chinese, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Spanish (Mexican), Thai, and Vietnamese. Tailored to each cuisine. (Japanese card prohibits imitation crab, soy sauce, and tempura; Mexican card prohibits flour tortillas, etc.)
$18.95 for ten cards in ten languages

The DELICARDO foodcard is I believe a German card made for food allergy and intolerance sufferers, or people on restrictive diets, who want to hand a DELICARDO foodcard containing all dietary restrictions over to the service personnel.. DELICARDO offers both standard and personalized Foodcards but you can’t easily combine allergens on one card and I didn’t much like the design..
Price varies. 

Allergy Translator
iPhone app with 45 of the most common food allergies in 33 languages. Haven’t tried it.




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2 thoughts on “Traveling with Allergy Cards”

  1. I just clicked on the Allergy Translator and it said ” The item you’ve requested is not currently available in the U.S. Store” , seriously that is not helpful my daughter leaves tonight for her trip to Japan! She has me a wreck already…no time to order any cards for her peanut allergy!!! She’s going to cause me to triple my anxiety of her trip…it would be my child who has life threatening food allergies who is the one who has to push the limits always! Time for more quick research!

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