May 12, 2014 — Of course, my fondest wish is that an emergency kit to reduce food allergic reactions onboard planes would be unnecessary if airlines stopped serving or allowing nuts on flights. Until that happens, if you have a family member with a nut allergy you probably have your own “emergency kit” that you bring on board.
I have my own, ranked from preventive measures to those measures required to treat an on-board reaction. Here, in a “nutshell,” is my list.
1. Wipes to try and disinfect seat handles, cushions, serving tray and the seat pocket.
2. Mask to diminish airborne nut particles which could trigger an allergic reaction. http://icanbreathe.com/store/honeycomb1.html
3. Seat Cover that can be placed over the existing seat cover which is probably contaminated with nut residue from previous occupants. http://www.planesheets.com
4. Safe snacks/meals that allow family members to enjoy on-board dining without worrying about nuts or ingredients with nuts that could trigger an allergic reaction.
5. Airborne nut allergy sash; or anything else that is wearable and that alerts passengers to your nut allergy. This is almost always effective since it is a non-confrontational way to cause nearby passengers to think twice before opening a bag of nuts. https://thesashcompany.com
6. Extra snacks for passengers who may have brought a snack that contains nuts. It’s amazing what happens when you offer someone an alternative snack. Typically, it’s appreciated.
7. Auvi-Q (or epipen). You probably use one or the other, but my preference is the Auvi-Q, which essentially “talks” you though the treatment process.
8. Single dose Benadryl. I love these and am thrilled that they are back on the market. Check your local Walgreens.
9. Steroids that are prescribed by a physician.
10. Portable nebulizer with albuterol (or inhaler) to aid breathing should an allergic reaction occur.
For those of you who are sensitive to airborne triggers, whether or not it’s nuts, you may want to consider bringing your own oxygen supply on board the aircraft. Check out Oxygen To Go, a company based in Wyoming which supplies individuals with portable oxygen concentrators. I’ve tried contacting the airlines to see whether they would they provide this for us, but they have refused. http://oxygentogo.com
The last thing to bring along is a smile and an attitude of gratitude. I find that I get farther when I make a request with a smile on my face. Also, if the flight attendants agree to set up a buffer zone, be forewarned that you may be at risk if you have to get up during the flight to use the restroom or exit the plane, especially if you have contact or airborne allergies. We found this out the hard way with my own family. So be sure to wear a mask and/or gloves when you leave the buffer zone.
Lastly, if you’re being given a hard time by a flight attendant or crew member and are threatened with being removed from the plane, ask to speak with the pilot. Only the pilot has the authority to ask you to leave the plane, according to a senior executive at the Flight Attendants Association. A flight attendant does not have this authority.
I got a great piece of advice from fellow food allergy mom and attorney, Laurel Francoeur, author of “Flying with Food Allergies: What You Need to Know.” She told me that she always tries to arrive at the gate early so she can speak with the pilots before they board the plane. According to Francoeur, the pilots tend to be more sympathetic to her cause when she speaks with them beforehand.
It’s time for vacations, so to ensure that your trip can be enjoyed by all, preparation and prevention of food allergic reactions will help ensure you arrive at your destination happy and healthy.
Safe Travels —