For those with severe peanut allergies, the prospect of flying, whether for vacation or business, is daunting. What if another passenger decides to eat a peanut butter sandwich while in the air? How can those with peanut allergies safely board the plane without putting themselves in harm’s way? Although severe allergic reactions are rarely reported on planes, the possibility can make those with peanut allergies nervous about flying.

In an airplane, re-circulated air puts passengers at greater risk of coming into contact with traces of peanut dust than they would be in a non-enclosed space. Many airlines customarily serve small bags of peanuts as an in-flight snack, making contact with peanut dust inevitable. However, there are some airlines that no longer serve peanuts, either for allergy or budgetary reasons. These include Continental, United, JetBlue, AirTran, Northwest, and US Airways. Both US Airways and AirTran state that they are “peanut-free” airlines. Meanwhile, snacks on American Airlines may contain peanut ingredients, and peanuts are served on Delta and Southwest flights.

Ask about airline policies in advance

Always ask about the airline’s peanut policy in advance, and let them know that you are requesting they serve a peanut-free snack on your flight. Some airlines are willing to avoid serving any snacks with peanut ingredients on the flight. Other airlines only avoid serving peanut snacks in a ‘buffer-zone’ of several rows around the passenger with the allergy. Many airlines will also read announcements prior to departure asking those on the flight not to eat peanut products.

However, airlines cannot stop passengers from bringing or consuming snacks of their choosing, meaning it is still possible to come into contact with allergens even on an allegedly peanut-free flight, regardless of the airline. If you have allergies and are traveling, bring wipes for the seats, arm-rests, tray table, and window. Remember that many people with severe peanut allergies have flown without incident. Take reasonable precautions, and enjoy your trip.

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