Food Allergy Fact

UP TO 15 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE U.S. HAVE A FOOD ALLERGY

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Lianne M.

Food Allergy Mom and Advocate


My son, Joshua, is eight years old.  He had his first anaphylactic reaction to peanuts at the age of two, when he asked for a bite of my peanut butter sandwich. The reaction began almost the moment the peanut butter touched his lips. We rushed Josh to the hospital, where he was given life-saving epinephrine.

In August 2013, our family was at the airport in Denver, traveling back to our home in New Jersey.  In the waiting area, we noticed a family of five eating peanuts. I had a friendly conversation with the parents, confirming that they were on our flight and explaining that Josh could have a life-threatening reaction if he was exposed to nuts.  To our horror, the kids not only continued to eat nuts, but deliberately threw them around and crushed them on the floor while staring at Josh.  

Deeply concerned, I started taking the steps I always follow to try to keep Josh safe when we travel. I planned to board early to wipe down the area where we would be sitting. But first, I asked the gate attendant to make a simple, brief announcement that there would be a child on board with a severe peanut allergy. On previous trips with the same airline, this had never been an issue.  But this time, the agent refused my request. I then went up the chain of command, speaking to several other officials, to no avail. I was appalled when the last one said, “If you think he’s going to die, just don’t get on the plane.” At that point, Josh began to cry. Completely terrified, he kept saying, “I don’t want to die on a plane.” Naturally, we made other travel arrangements.

The feeling of powerlessness hit me like a ton of bricks. I promised my son that we would work together to raise awareness and advocate for airlines to establish consistent, sensible policies that enable people with food allergies to travel safely.

I’m very proud that, since this experience, Josh has shown himself to be brave, resilient and willing to speak up when necessary. Along with other families, he and I have testified before the New Jersey Senate Transportation Committee, urging airline carriers to enact policies concerning nuts on flights.  This resolution was subsequently passed in the New Jersey Senate. Josh is also participating in a clinical trial of a potential new treatment for peanut allergy, an empowering experience for our family.  

I am an ordinary mother, trying to protect my son from his peanut allergy when we fly. I have learned that all of us can make a difference for the food allergy community. You can write your legislators about important advocacy initiatives, become a FARE member, educate other parents or staff at your child’s school, provide information and emotional support to someone who is newly diagnosed…and so much more. 

To help other allergy sufferers fly safely and with confidence, I have created a website, The No Nut Traveler. Our goal is to minimize and prevent the risks of exposure and reactions when flying. We provide resources and advocacy tools, and encourage visitors to help others by sharing their stories.  Learn more at www.nonuttraveler.com.