International Study, Flying with Food Allergies

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 has authored a new study about the risks of flying with a peanut or tree nut allergy published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology-In Practice called: International Study of Risk-Mitigating Factors and In-Flight Allergic Reactions to Peanut and Tree Nut.  [Disclosure: Greenhawt is a colleague and wrote about theories of the rise of food allergies in my food allergy lifestyle guide Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies published by John Wiley & Sons in 2011.]

Here is a New York Times Well column about the study: Wisdom From Flyers With Nut Allergies.

And here's more information from a press release from the University of Michigan about Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology-In Practice study: International Study of Risk-Mitigating Factors and In-Flight Allergic Reactions to Peanut and Tree Nut:  

“Greenhawt, and his co-authors from Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia and the International Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance, asked passengers to answer an online survey about their in-flight experiences.  More than 3,200 people from 11 countries completed the survey. Of those, 349 reported having an allergic reaction during an airline flight.”

The actionable items for all of us flying with a severe food allergy: “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 Greenhawt, of U-M’s Food Allergy Center.

Passengers with peanut/tree nut allergies who reported taking these actions had significantly lower odds of reporting a reaction:

(1) requesting any accommodation
(2) requesting a peanut/tree nut-free meal
(3) wiping their tray table with a commercial wipe
(4) avoiding use of airline pillows
(5) avoiding use of airline blankets
(6) requesting a peanut/tree nut-free buffer zone
(7) requesting other passengers not consume peanut/tree nut-containing products 

(8) not consuming airline-provided food"

Have more questions? Contact your board certified allergist about the risks of commercial flying for your food allergic loved one. You can find allergists through your health insurer, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

And, Allergic Living magazine had an updated airline and allergen policies chart here.


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