Nut allergies on the airplane

Recently Patricia Aspinall, of Travel Savvy Mom, wrote an interesting article about her experience on board a flight to the Caribbean with a passenger who had a nut allergy, while traveling with her husband and daughter, a two and a half year-old. Like my own two year-old, Patricia’s daughter is a picky eater, so Patricia did what any smart mom would do and packed snacks – peanut butter granola bars.

When the flight attendants on Patricia’s flight asked passengers to refrain from eating nuts, Patricia had no idea what to do about her hungry child, so she asked a flight attendant. “The flight attendant didn’t have any solutions,” wrote Patricia. “It seemed this was a first for them as well.”

Solutions? Unfortunately, there’s just one solution – no nuts! Regardless of picky eaters on board. Not to sound harsh, but I’d rather have a hungry child on my plane than a plane that has to divert because someone has a serious allergy attack.

A recent study showed that nearly one in 10 people with peanut, tree nut or seed allergies experienced an allergic reaction while traveling on an airplane. Surprisingly, most of these reactions occurred as a result on inhaling airborne particles from peanuts. This occurred after multiple bags of peanuts were opened near a person with peanut allergy. Airborne peanut particles seem to be common on airplanes, since peanut proteins have been found in the ventilation filters of commercial airplanes.

Since commercial airlines may not have emergency medical equipment on board, and because there may not be a medical professional traveling as a fellow passenger, people with peanut allergy need to be prepared. Calling various airline companies to see if peanuts are served on the planned flight is a good idea, but never a guarantee that peanuts won’t be present on the airplane. Carrying an Epi-Pen, as well as an antihistamine, is the best way to be prepared for an allergic emergency. For a long flight, a person with food allergies should consider bringing their own food on the airplane, since airplane food could contain hidden ingredients and may not be labeled as containing common food allergens

Because we no longer serve free food on board the airplanes, nuts are always a popular snack with passengers and crew alike. They’re healthy and filling and fit easily inside a tote bag. My favorite, almonds and pistachios. My coworker last week shared a bag of cashews. People bring nuts and products containing nuts on board all the time. So what happened when a child with a nut allergy walked on board my mother’s flight two years ago?


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