A nut allergy is a potential life threatening condition, but even more risky if a reaction occurs mid-flight. For those who travel by air with allergies, good news is on the horizon, with British Airways being the first major airline to request a 'nut ban' requesting that the food is not opened and eaten around the food-allergy sufferer.
The airline already has a policy of not serving or selling peanuts as snacks on their flights, as well as making a pre-flight announcement to advise customers. However despite this, they cannot stop passengers from bringing their own snacks on board, such as nuts, if they are pre-sealed.
A common misconception about flying with a nut allergy is that it is similar to other food allergens, such as gluten, in which the individual may just experience a rash or stomach upset. This is not the case. Those with suffer with nut allergies, often are prone to more severe reactions called anaphylaxis. Symptoms include swelling of the lips and face, difficulty breathing due to closure of the airways, as well as hives and itching. A reaction can occur from exposure to the nut and/or nut protein either directly or airborne.
In the event of a nut reaction Epi-pens are commonly used, however these do not 'cure' the anaphylaxis, but simply slow it down (giving an extra 45 minutes or so until the individual can reach a hospital). The plane will have to make an emergency landing - and this can be tricky to do if you're over a large area of sea!
British Airways representative, Gwen Smith, stated that, 'The British Airways PA announcements are a big win for the food allergy community. Given the growing nature of food allergies, food allergic passengers can choose to fly with British Airways who treat their food allergy with dignity and respect."
If you are travelling with a nut allergy, it is essential that you inform the airline staff. Tell them that you have an allergy (as well as the severity) upon boarding the plane and advise them of your seat number. Always bring your medication with you in case of anaphylaxis - having only one Epi-pen with you may not be enough, so it is important to always carry multiple backups with you. Often there isn't allergy free food options on board, however airlines allow you to bring your own food, so long as it is pre-sealed and meets airline food rules.
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