For somebody with allergies, especially to food, there is nothing worse than having a reaction in a confined space like on an airline.
A new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology-In Practice, lists home hints passengers with allergies, particularly to peanuts can follow.
More than 3,200 people from 11 countries completed the survey. Of those, 349 reported having an allergic reaction during an airline flight. That is a little over 10%.
"Flying with a peanut/tree nut allergy is equal parts frustrating and frightening for allergic passengers. These eight passenger-initiated risk-mitigating behaviors may help clinicians wishing to advise concerned patients planning to fly commercially," says Matthew Greenhawt, of the University of Michigan's Food Allergy Center.
Requesting any accommodation
Requesting a peanut/tree nut-free meal
Wiping their tray table with a commercial wipe
Avoiding use of airline pillows
Avoiding use of airline blankets
Requesting a peanut/tree nut-free buffer zone
Requesting other passengers not consume peanut/tree nut-containing products
Not consuming airline-provided food
Passengers shouldn't be afraid to ask for an alternative, but the survey seems to say, more should be done.
Greenhawt says most airlines still serve peanuts and tree nuts or snacks and meals with peanuts or tree nuts included. Canada is the only country with any formal policy in place, which requires a 3-row buffer zone with advance notification only on Air Canada flights, he says.
The study also found that epinephrine, a common and effective treatment, was drastically underused when needed in-flight. Only 13.3 percent of passengers reporting a reaction received epinephrine as treatment. Flight crews also were notified regarding 50.1 percent of reactions. In a similar study of US passengers five years ago, Greenhawt noted that there was a similar low rate use of epinephrine.
"Despite that 98 percent of passengers had a personal source of epinephrine available, epinephrine was underused to treat a reaction. Flight crews were not always readily alerted to reactions when they occurred, but interestingly, when they were notified, it was associated with a higher odds that epinephrine was used to treat the reaction," Greenhawt says.
This is the first study to show that in-flight peanut and tree nut allergy is an international problem, says lead author and pediatrician Matthew Greenhawt , M.D., M.B.A., M.Sc., of the University of Michigan's Food Allergy Center and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. This study focused on international travel, it should be noted.