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One Mom Is Campaigning Against Peanuts on Planes

Worries about her allergy-afflicted child and mounting frustration that her concerns were being discounted by the airlines turned a concerned mom into a champion for allergy awareness.

It took an extreme incident to make Lianne Mandelbaum, the mom behind The No Nut Traveler website and advocacy group, the influential political force she is today. Mandelbaum writes on her website that it was outrage and frustration resulting from an attempt to fly United Airlines from Denver International Airport (DEN) to Newark International Airport (EWR) with her then 8-year-old son, a severe peanut allergy sufferer, that became the impetus for what is now a global movement.

Mandelbaum writes that what she saw at the gate while waiting for the flight in August of 2013 was a worst case scenario for the mother of a small child with a peanut allergy — a family of five enjoying a pre-flight peanut snack. “Their kids weren’t just eating peanuts, but throwing them up in the air and missing their mouths and crushing them on the carpet,” Mandelbaum explains.

Faced with a potentially dangerous situation for her young child, she immediately requested that an announcement about her son’s severe allergy be made on the flight. Mandelbaum says airline employees steadfastly denied her pleas. “This has been done as a courtesy on every United flight that I have taken,” she wrote. “They refused to do this repeatedly as I spoke to multiple people on the chain of command.”

The concerned mother says the family had to give up on their travel plans altogether when a frustrated gate agent told her in front of her small child, “If you think he’s going to die, don’t get on the plane.” Soon after, Mandelbaum founded the popular No Nut Traveler website.

Mandelbaum notes that severe allergies can be more than an inconvenience and points to the cases in which flights have had to make emergency landings and passengers’ lives were put at risk because of allergic reactions in the air. “The inconvenience a person might feel who really wants to eat a Reese’s Peanut butter cup pales in comparison to the fear of what it must feel like to have an allergic reaction to those foods,” she writes.

The No Nut Traveler website provides tips on how travelers can avoid serious anaphylactic reactions when traveling. The site notes that Jet Blue is one of the few U.S. carriers which will make announcements if a passenger onboard has a severe allergy and will even organize an allergen-free buffer zone on the plane for this passenger. Links are provided on the site to help passengers file complaints with the DOT if airlines refuse to take a food allergy sufferer’s safety seriously. There is also an online petition urging lawmakers to require the DOT to implement a consistent policy to limit the risk of severe allergy-related emergencies.

[Photo: Getty]

 

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26 Comments
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JZavattieri November 24, 2015

I am appalled at the responses on this forum. I am a parent of a child with severe life threatening nut allergies. There are other foods/snacks out there people, that don't have nuts, that don't cost more money that don't endanger the lives of people! What you are saying is selfish. That you would rather be able eat something with nuts, than wait (for the amount of time of a flight). Do you really hear what you are saying?? You would rather a child stay at home than go out in public? You want a child to be socially isolated? To NOT experience the world? How would you feel? Allergies are on the rise, especially to nuts. Wake up people.... Or maybe that will only happen when one of YOUR loved ones ingests nuts or sits next to someone who just ate something with nuts and talks to them. The next thing you know their lips start to swell, their eyes start to bulge, they grab at their throat gasping for breath, turning purple.... Your whole life changes at that very moment and you pray for the understanding and compassion of others to help protect your loved one.

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zpaul November 17, 2015

There is a significant difference between most "public spaces" where medical treatment/ambulance services are easily and readily available, and an airplane. Even if you travel with an EpiPen and surgical mask, once an EpiPen is used you have to receive follow-up care within 60 minutes or there is a very high chance that the anaphylactic reaction will resume. Also, the particulates of allergens are many times too small for surgical masks to be effective (depending upon the allergen, of course). What is the greater inconvenience: an emergency landing that adds two to three hours to your travel, or not having a snack with peanuts? Parents today DO take it too far, I think, but the lack of compassion shown by many on this board is shameful, as well.

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missydarlin November 17, 2015

I sympathize, but I just don't think it's realistic to expect a planeload of people to be happy about complying. I applaud airlines for taking the extra steps with extra cleaning and serving of nut free products, but telling people that they can't eat something onboard that I may have purchased in that airport for that purpose is not going to make for happy travelers. I think this comment from the mother is pretty dismissive “The inconvenience a person might feel who really wants to eat a Reese’s Peanut butter cup pales in comparison to the fear of what it must feel like to have an allergic reaction to those foods,” What if I all i/my kids have to eat for the flight is a PBJ? Whether I brought it because I have dietary restrictions and PBJ is an easy, room temperature safe choice, or I just don't want to spend the $$ on airline food, unless she, or the airline is going to provide my family something else to eat - I don't think its fair for her to expect us to go hungry.

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mgobluetex November 16, 2015

There is no reason that the majority of people should cater to the needs of one individual especially if that one individual can do things that decrease harm to themselves. The post did not have all of the details needed for an complete response but I would guess that the child didn't have a surgical mask to cover their face for the off chance that he/she came into contact with allergens. I would also guess the reason why is that it may "embarrass" the child somewhat but that can be fixed by the entire family wearing the mask to make the kid feel welcome. Once you start to cater to the significant minority it begins to infuriate the larger and more powerful majority. I say shame on the mom.

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ZacP November 16, 2015

Believe me, parents of nut-allergic children are well-used to staying away from (or being excluded from) public events, most restaurants, birthday parties, and in fact huge portions of the globe where there is no way to safely ensure that our children are not exposed to common allergens. With every choice we make on whether or not to go somewhere or do something, we have to analyze the possible risks to our children against the social/family/other risks of excluding them from another aspect of life that most people take for granted. And we take steps to reduce those risks as much as we can to keep our children safe (flying early in the morning, calling restaurants ahead of time to see if they can accommodate food allergies, waiting for nut-free days at the baseball stadium, etc.). Air travel is a fundamental aspect of life in our modern society (different from baseball games or other social events), and REASONABLE steps need to be taken to make sure that it is safe for as may people as possible. Removing nut products from airplanes (and yes, even airports) is absolutely reasonable because (1) so many people today have nut allergies - almost 13% of the US population has a food allergy, with most of those being peanut/tree nut allergies, and (2) there are so many safe food alternatives that can be taken on board - pretzels, yogurt, sandwiches, etc. It really comes down to compassion and tolerance, qualities I appreciate so much more ever since my son was born with a nut allergy. The next time you fly, if you make the choice to bring something other than nuts on board, or turn down the nuts offered by the airline, please know that you have my thanks and the thanks of many other people who are trying to keep their children safe without any desire to cause you inconvenience.