Largest Study on Food Allergies in Air Travel Uncovers Unmet Needs


Dr. Christopher Warren discusses the study he presented at AAAAI 2023 Annual Meeting that found 98% of participants experienced added anxiety when traveling due to their food allergy, with a "lamentingly high number" of negative experiences.

Brand new data from the largest study to investigate food allergy and air travel were presented by lead investigator Christopher Warren, PhD, at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) 2023 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. The analysis included more than 4700 individuals with anaphylaxis or their caretakers, from 5 countries.

During AAAAI, HCPLive interviewed Warren, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He also serves as the director of Population Health Research at the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research, of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Results showed that 98% of participants experienced added anxiety when traveling due to their food allergy and a "lamentingly high number" reported negative experiences such as being told one thing when booking a flight and another thing happening in the moment.

He acknowledged the study population isn't necessarily reflective of the general population, because in order to gather information the investigation relied on a convenient population who showed they were proactive in managing their allergies and motivated to report their experiences, including the positive ones.

"A third of people did identify specific incidents where folks went above and beyond, in terms of the flight crew, or folks at the gate, to be proactive in managing food allergies," Warren said. "Unfortunately, a lot of those relied on people with personal experience managing food allergies."

For instance, flight attendants who reportedly shared their lunch because the food allergen free meal wasn't provided, or pilots making a point of wiping down the seat area themselves because they have family with an allergy and wanted to ensure the respondent's safety.

The study emphasized the need for consistent policies that support individuals managing food alleriges while traveling. Findings revealed 400 respondents reported experiencing an allergic reaction while flying, Warren explained, but only 15% of these reactions were treated with epinephrine.

Watch more of Dr. Christopher Warren's interview on managing food allergies during air travel.

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