Holiday Travel May See Increase in Allergic Reactions Aboard Planes

November 13, 2014 – As the holiday travel season approaches, more families will be flying.  With the increase in travel comes an increased risk among travelers with food allergies, especially those allergic to nuts.  To that end, we’re encouraging airlines, food allergic travelers and the traveling public to take extra precautions.  This warning comes after four airline passengers went into anaphylaxis on board planes during the summer travel period.   Three of these flights had to make emergency landings.

Even after these incidents, and their impact on operating costs, airlines and government officials are still struggling to find the right solutions.   Just last week, I attended the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Disability Forum in Washington, DC.  This conference looked specifically at how the flying experience could be improved for those with disabilities.  What pleased me the most was that food allergies are finally becoming part of that discussion.

We’re not asking airlines to make big concessions to keep allergy passengers safe.  We simply are asking that airlines make an on-board announcement that passengers should refrain from opening nuts or nut-based snacks for the duration of the flight.

We would also like to see airlines create a buffer zone within the plane that disallows any nuts or snacks with nuts. Here again, the key is for flight crews to be educated on the health implications of an anaphylactic reaction and to allow them the flexibility they need to work with all passengers on board a particular flight.

Here are some travel tips for individuals who are at risk from severe nut allergies.

  • Carry epinephrine auto-injectors / inhalers / Benadryl
  • Use seat cover and wipes to cover or remove any nut residue from other passengers
  • Wear a mask if you may have airborne issues with nut proteins.
  • Think about sitting in the last row of the plane then you’ve only got three rows of passengers in front of you to contend with.
  • Carry extra snacks that don’t contain nuts to mollify other passengers
  • Be forewarned that you may at some point need to leave your buffer zone to use the bathroom or get off the plane.  Be sure to take wipes and/or put on mask when you leave buffer zone.

For those who are traveling without allergies, I always encourage them to eat their nuts or nut products before or after their flight.  There’s no guarantee that flight crews will make an announcement for nut allergic passengers, and the last thing anyone wants to happen is for someone to go into anaphylaxis and for an emergency landing to occur.

I think we can all agree that every life deserves protection.  Until we have a cure, we need to all work together to make this happen.

Have a wonderful, safe holiday season.

Safe Travels