It’s difficult to know what to say when confronted with a story like this one, in Allergic Living, about an airline crew’s response to an eight year old child’s mid-air anaphylactic reaction. But it can’t help but affect me emotionally.
I can’t comment on this particular situation or airline. I’ve never flown with them. However, this story reinforces the importance of crew members on all airlines receiving more consistent training in dealing with allergic emergencies, if they have not already.
I’ve flown all over the world, and have suffered a severe allergic reaction only once, after eating an airline meal en route to Rio de Janiero. This was a few years before injectable epinephrine was available on the market. And fortunately, the reaction subsided, as the crew didn’t take it very seriously. Being trapped in an airplane 30,000 feet high and not being able to breathe properly was nothing short of terrifying.
On subsequent flights, I brought my own food. I also pre-board to wipe down armrests and trays if I can. But as the article demonstrates, cloth seats are impossible to wipe. When I travel, I do my due diligence to avoid a reaction before booking and on pre-boarding, and I hope for the best. Fortunately, I’ve travelled domestically and overseas without further incident. Not everyone is so lucky.
And whenever I fly an airline that does not serve peanuts or nuts, and makes allergy announcements on request, I want to give the crew a hug for going out of their way to make me feel more comfortable.
Where allergens are served on flights (even previous flights), however, allergic travellers have every reason to feel concerned. Taking preventive precautions is one part of the process. Crew training — and regular refreshers — on dealing with allergic emergencies in the air is the other.
On a personal, and ironic, note, I recently had to turn down a job because none of the airlines that served the airport in the town I would have visited were willing to avoid serving nuts.
Booking flights is often a stressful ordeal for those with severe allergies, especially to peanuts and tree nuts, which are common culprits in contact-based allergic reactions. It doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, other corporate choices can be made, certainly with respect to the most common and potent allergens. It is a choice to welcome such travellers, or have them fend for themselves. I don’t think that there is any way to sugarcoat this problem. I have severe allergies; I’m also a world traveller. Work with me here. Work with all of us in the allergic community, because we have the right to travel by air.
Indeed, in my ideal allergy accommodation scenario, there is no allergic flyer left behind.