While you can structure your home life to avoid allergens fairly easily, airline cabins pose a special set of difficulties. Once you're in the air, you're stuck, and you share a ventilation system with everyone else on the plane. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to mitigate the risk of an in-flight allergic reaction. Read on to find out how to prepare for airline travel with severe allergies.
Talk to your allergist about the risks of an inhalation reaction in your particular case. The higher the risk of a reaction by inhalation --- that is, by breathing in particles of allergens --- the greater the precautions you will need to take on your own behalf. In most people, this risk is quite low, and your primary concern will be avoiding allergens in the food you eat. Your doctor is the best person to advise you on this issue.
Notify the airline of your food allergies both at the time you make your reservation and on the day of your flight. Some online reservation forms include a place to indicate special needs; if yours doesn't, call or e-mail customer relations at the airline and let them know your flight number and seat, if you've reserved one in advance. Some airlines are willing to avoid serving particular snacks if a customer on a given flight is allergic to one of the ingredients.
Pick your flight times wisely. Southwest Airlines recommends early morning flight times because the airplanes are cleaned most thoroughly after the last flight of the night. Less crowded flights might allow you a natural "buffer zone" between yourself and other passengers as well.
Pack a few essentials. If your doctor has prescribed any rescue medication for anaphylactic shock, make sure you have it so that you're prepared in case of an emergency. Make sure the medication includes the pharmacy label, to forestall any issues from security. And if you want to eat on the flight, bring your own food so you know what's in it.
Do your homework. Read the airline's written policy about allergies and other special needs before traveling. If you have any questions, call customer relations well before your flight.
Politely ask the flight attendant to make an announcement asking passengers to refrain from eating snacks containing allergens if you are susceptible to an inhalation reaction. Many will do this as a matter of course if you advise them of a severe peanut or tree nut allergy.
In the event of a reaction, inform the flight attendants immediately at the same time you begin administering treatment. The flight crew will solicit assistance from any qualified medical personnel who may be onboard and may be able to assist you with CPR or oxygen, if necessary.
Refuse any snacks the flight attendants offer, even if you feel sure of their contents. Bringing your own food is simply safer.
What You Need
- Rescue medication
- Food (for flight)