Air Travel with Food Allergies: AAAAI 2023 Data Shed Light on Challenges, Opportunities

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Late-breaking data presented by Dr. Christopher Warren indicates travelers with food allergy lack confidence in regulations and accommodations put in place for air travel.

Data presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) 2023 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX, highlighted the need for better management and support for individuals with food allergies during air travel to improve their quality of life and facilitate safer travel.

Epinephrine autoinjectors pose a certain barrier for multiple reasons in terms of adherence and also when it comes to airline travel. Christopher Warren, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine and director of Population Health Research at the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, explained his late-breaking data in an interview with HCPLive.

"Overwhelmingly, respondents said that they they not only carried epinephrine onboard as a step to try to be proactive about management but the majority actually carried extra epinephrine aboard because usually you're traveling somewhere," he said. "And it's often recommended to have 2 epinephrine auto injectors on you in case a reaction doesn't resolve after one."

When anaphylaxis occurs, it's imperative to address it right away. Epinephrine autoinjectors serve as a rescue therapy that's easier to administer than measuring epinephrine, drawing up a syringe and injecting it into the correct tissue, Warren explained, which can be especially complicated when a stressful anaphylactic event is taking place.

So, even though the study results showed that most of these individuals carry at least one epinephrine autoinjector, Warren and his team also found that when anaphylaxis occurred in the air, only 15% of cases were treated with epinephrine. However, there are multiple factors at play.

"There are concerns about having epinephrine confiscated (at airport security), because of stories about that happening, and so that's one thing that can lead to anxiety among families with respect to the emergency medical kits on airplanes," he explained.

While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) permits travelers to bring their own epinephrine autoinjectors, the data gathered from more than 4700 individuals or caretakers who travel with a food allergy exhibited reports on complications with this. The study findings also suggested that this population exhibited a higher confidence in other people who have or understand those with food allergy than they do in the regulations or accommodations in air travel.

"In some ways, there's maybe a false sense of security," Warren said, "because so many people have food allergies, and so many people are carrying autoinjectors, that there's almost, like–you can think of a herd immunity, where there's enough people on an average flight–there's likely to be a few people with food allergies."

Check out the rest of HCPLive's interview with Dr. Christopher Warren:

  1. Christopher Warren, PhD: Food Allergy Management in the Skies
  2. Largest Study on Food Allergies in Air Travel Uncovers Unmet Needs
  3. 1 in 3 People with Food Allergies Choose not to Disclose While Traveling by Air
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