On May 15th, I bought a salad that did NOT contain nuts to eat on my flight back to Chicago. In fact, none of the salads on the menu were supposed to. As someone who has lived with a severe tree nut allergy their whole life, I am always extremely careful about what I buy.
Within 5 minutes of takeoff, I ate one piece of the chicken. To my horror, my throat started tingling, scratching, and then tightening. I was going into anaphylaxis 30,000 feet in the air. I ran to the front of the cabin and asked the Southwest flight attendants if they had any Benadryl and explained that I had a severe nut allergy, and had just possibly eaten a nut. They told me they did not have any, and looked flustered and alarmed.
The flight attendants didn’t offer epinephrine, an epi-pen, and were completely unprepared to help me. I told them that I was going to administer my own EpiPen in the bathroom. My throat was continually closing, and I was getting lightheaded as it became almost impossible to breathe. The flight attendants did NOT ask the passengers if there was a physician on board, and they did NOT tell me they had any sort of of medicine to help me.
Last time I had a reaction, I needed an ambulance and TWO rounds of epinephrine to stop it. Knowing this, and receiving no support or guidance from anyone, I made myself throw up several times to remove the nut from my system. For two hours I sat on the ground of the bathroom floor, struggling to breathe and jittering from the shot of epinephrine, going in and out of consciousness. It was truly my worst nightmare. I was traveling alone, and I was completely UNMONITORED for a full 2 hours after an initial check once after I administered the EpiPen. The flight attendants seemed flustered and unsure of what to do the entire time.
Now, imagine someone who didn’t know they were allergic to a certain food. Imagine someone whose reaction won’t stop with their own, single shot of epinephrine that they carry. Imagine a child who can’t quite express the symptoms they are feeling or doesn’t want to complain about discomfort and then doesn’t get the treatment in time. Yes, life-threatening allergic reactions on planes are not extremely common, but utterly horrendous care by @Southwest and ill-prepared flight attendants should never further jeopardize the entire lives of their passengers.
The Federal Aviation Administration/DOT needs to require training on what to do for ALL flight attendants and REQUIRE that there be a EpiPen on board. 32 million Americans have severe food allergies, and many more do not know that they have one. Right now, all that is available is a “suggested” guide embodied in AC 121-36 published in 2002. EpiPens are NOT federally required to be carried, and the vials of epinephrine can only be injected by a medically licensed professional. Doesn’t that seem like a problem? PLEASE help me spread this message calling for CHANGE IN FAA REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING and, in turn, help save the lives of future passenge