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Should airlines ban peanuts to protect people with food allergies?

Imagine what it would be like to have difficulty breathing in the middle of a cross-country flight. Or even worse, imagine what it would be like to watch your child struggle to breathe and possibly go into shock because of an allergic reaction on a plane. Sadly, two sets of parents recently had to deal with this alarming event as their young daughters suffered from life-threatening anaphylactic shock from airline peanuts.

Since I don’t have allergies, this scenario never crossed my mind before I became a parent. And lo and behold, parenting threw me a curveball. My oldest son was born with a number of allergies and food sensitivities. He had weeping, bleeding eczema as an infant and later asthma.

Any food allergy parent can tell you that having a kid with allergies is not fun. Not only do you have to police whatever they put in their mouth, but you have to constantly worry about the possibility of a reaction. Fortunately, my son does not have life-threatening allergies. But because of all we have gone through with specialists and allergists, I can wholly understand how frightening it must be for a parent to watch her child have a serious attack.

Nut allergies can be deadly. Food Allergy Research & Education reports that “Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. Peanuts can cause a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).”

Peanut allergies also appear to be on the rise in children, and this affliction can be a lifelong struggle. Parents of children with nut allergies know that they need to carry an EpiPen at all times to prevent a deadly reaction. But what is a parent supposed to do if they forgot or already used their child’s EpiPen while traveling? Or what if a child has their first allergic reaction to peanuts on a plane, without any medical help around?

It’s for this reason that many airlines have already chosen to stop serving peanuts. Allergy awareness is growing; some airlines are willing to comply and protect passengers with grave allergic conditions. But a federal guideline to ban peanuts on airlines has yet to come into effect. As a result, passengers, like the young girls described above, are still vulnerable to severe allergy attacks that will require an emergency landing.

Not all airlines are “on board” with this change. It can be hard to instate a new airline policy that inconveniences the many to protect the health of the few. But let’s think logically about this. Do you really need to eat peanuts on a plane? Isn’t it time that this on-board snack trend dies? Customers aren’t likely to notice the transition from peanuts to another free in-flight snack. It’s a small price to pay to save a life.

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