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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Jul;104(1):186-9.

Self-reported allergic reactions to peanut on commercial airliners.

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Division of Pediatric Allergy/Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA.



Allergic reactions to food occurring on commercial airlines have not been systematically characterized.


We sought to describe the clinical characteristics of allergic reactions to peanuts on airplanes.


Participants in the National Registry of Peanut and Tree Nut Allergy who indicated an allergic reaction while on a commercial airliner were interviewed by telephone.


Sixty-two of 3704 National Registry of Peanut and Tree Nut Allergy participants indicated a reaction on an airplane; 42 of 48 patients or parental surrogates contacted confirmed the reaction began on the airplane (median age of affected subject, 2 years; range, 6 months to 50 years). Of these, 35 reacted to peanuts (4 were uncertain of exposure) and 7 to tree nuts, although 3 of these 7 reacted to substances that may have also contained peanut. Exposures occurred by ingestion (20 subjects), skin contact (8 subjects), and inhalation (14 subjects). Reactions generally occurred within 10 minutes of exposure (32 of 42 subjects), and reaction severity correlated with exposure route (ingestion > inhalation > skin). The causal food was generally served by the airline (37 of 42 subjects). Medications were given in flight to 19 patients (epinephrine to 5) and to an additional 14 at landing/gate return (including epinephrine to 1 and intravenous medication to 2), totaling 79% treated. Flight crews were notified in 33% of reactions. During inhalation reactions as a result of peanut allergy, greater than 25 passengers were estimated to be eating peanuts at the time of the reaction. Initial symptoms generally involved the upper airway, with progression to the skin or further lower respiratory reactions (no gastrointestinal symptoms).


Allergic reactions to peanuts and tree nuts caused by accidental ingestion, skin contact, or inhalation occur during commercial flights, but airline personnel are usually not notified. Reactions can be severe, requiring medications, including epinephrine.

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