Severe Allergies and Travel: The Journey Begins With a Single Step

Rebecca E. Cooney, PhD


March 21, 2016

In This Article

Why the Uptick in Severe Allergic Reactions?

According to Dr Storms, "We're seeing more and more issues with patients who have severe allergies who are in public areas—whether, for example, it's a peanut allergy on an airplane or an animal allergy in people who stay in a hotel room where there has been an animal."

"The question is, why is this happening? There are two factors affecting patients' allergies over the past 30 years," Dr Storms continued. "One is that more people are allergic than they were years ago. The other is that some of these allergies are much more severe than they ever were. Anaphylaxis is much more common now than it was 30 years ago."

"To give an example with peanut allergy, 30 years ago I might have prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector to a different child maybe every 2 or 3 months. Now it's every week." Of note, even with the increasing rates of food allergy, injectable epinephrine, though safe and effective, is often underused for anaphylactic emergencies.

In coverage of severe allergic reactions, the focus is often on children, but adults are also susceptible. As Dr Storms notes, "The other very unusual thing is that we are now seeing adults who present with severe food allergy who have never had any trouble before. That's something new. There's something that's changing either in the environment or in people. Nobody knows the answer, though there are a lot of different theories."

"But now, we have a group of people who have much more severe allergies. In the past, someone with an allergy to cats would go on an airplane, sneeze, and take their allergy pill and they'd be fine. Now people['s allergies] are more severe, and [they] may not even be able to get on a plane. Although pills help, we have to counsel these people to be very careful."

"The other issue that occurs with airplane travel these days is that there are simply more people traveling by airplane than there were 30 years ago," Dr Storms further explained. "You put all these things together, and you have a conflict between the patient who has allergies and the public who doesn't want to have their lifestyle interrupted. There's got to be some compromise somewhere."


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