Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, and Dr Andy Clark, Chair of the Anaphylaxis Campaign Clinical and Scientific Advisory Panel, say:
“We were deeply saddened to hear the moving story of Amy May Shead who was left paralysed after experiencing an allergic reaction whilst on holiday in a restaurant in Budapest in 2014. We have immense sympathy for her family and recognize that Amy’s story has generated significant media interest and debate about travelling with severe allergies.
We understand that flying with a food allergy can be stressful and cause much anxiety in those with a severe allergy. We hope the debate that has been generated about whether nuts should be banned on aeroplanes will help raise awareness of the risks of allergies and anaphylaxis. We encourage all passengers to consider how they can help travel to be less frightening for people with allergies, such as complying with a polite request to not eat peanuts or tree nuts. However, our policy is not to sign any petition other than those set up by our charity.
There are a number of reasons why the Anaphylaxis Campaign and other international allergy charities, with whom we work closely, currently do not advocate for a blanket ban of any allergen in any establishment, including on aircraft.
These reasons include the fact that, even if an airline did choose not to use or sell any products containing peanut or tree nuts, there would be considerable legal obstacles in trying to prevent and check whether passengers have brought products containing peanuts or tree nuts onto a flight. These difficulties would multiply if this suggestion was expanded to a blanket ban of other allergens, such as cow’s milk or latex.
Scientific evidence also shows that the most likely cause of allergic reactions experienced whilst travelling is skin contact rather than contact through inhalation. This means that if you touch a fold-down tray or some other surface that has previously been touched by a passenger eating peanuts, and then touch your eyes or mouth, you could have a reaction. However, risks of cross-contamination are present whenever you might be in close contact with other people who have not washed their hands after touching an allergen. This includes travelling by public transport, at the airport, or in your hotel.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign has already reached out to airlines and will continue to engage with them about key issues affecting those at risk of severe allergies. Our aim is to create a safe environment for all people with allergies by working with and educating the travel industry; focusing on medical facts, food labelling, risk reduction and allergen management.
We hope that debates like this will encourage airlines to assess their risk management plans and take appropriate actions to help people with allergies such as: training in-flight staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and anaphylaxis, allowing passengers with an allergy additional time to board in order to clean their seating area and provide clear information about policies regarding allergies.
Our ultimate aim is to help people with severe allergy to be more confidently in control of their lives. We provide medically informed advice and information via our clinical panel to help educate and empower people living with allergies to be aware of risks to their safety when travelling and the precautions they can take to feel reassured and safe.
Every person is different, so if you have concerns about travelling we would encourage you to speak to your GP or allergy specialist who can advise you what to do to minimise risks, such as carrying alcohol wipes to clean surfaces as soon as you get on the plane. By following the top tips available on our website and making sure you’re prepared, travel can be a lot less frightening.”
If you have any other questions or concerns please contact our helpline team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01252 542 029.