“Anaphylaxis is an acute multi-system severe type I hypersensitivity reaction.” Such a reaction is brought on by the human body reacting to an allergen, or allergens, which it perceives as poisonous. Those persons, who happen to have a hypersensitivity towards certain allergens, such as peanuts, will experience an allergic reaction upon exposure to said allergens. The reaction, which runs in a cascade manner, has the potential to progress into anaphylactic shock, a condition where the body’s airways are swelled and constricted, and cardiac arrest occurs. In other words, if left immediately untreated, a person going into anaphylactic shock will most likely die.

Enter a post at both hellinahandbasket and Chicago Boyz in which James Rummel likens the banning of peanuts from commercial airline flights as one example of our leaning towards a nanny-state environment. From the Chicago Boyz post,

I’m voicing my bemusement over this situation because I just heard that there are tentative plans to have the US government ban all peanuts on commercial flights.

No more peanuts for you, you healthy bastard! Your inflight snack, which is nothing more than an ounce or two of roasted nuts, might cause the poor bastard sitting next to you to keel over from the odor!

My private charity for 18 years was a free self defense course for violent crime survivors, and I specialized in the elderly and disabled. I don’t think anyone can credibly claim that I am unsympathetic to the plight of those suffering from disabilities.

But banning peanuts because someone sitting somewhere on an entire airplane might be allergic? If there are people out there that are so hypersensitive to something so prevalent in our society, then they should be living inside of a bubble somewhere. If the problem is so deadly, their bodies so sensitive, then they could be passing someone in the street who ate a peanut butter sandwich and die in their tracks!

Now I read James on a pretty regular basis. He’s very level headed. While I can understand his frustration at the notion of losing access to airline peanuts, albeit for a few hours at a time for however many (or few) times he travels by air, I do take exception towards his attitude about those persons who do have a medically confirmed hypersensitivity towards peanuts (to be specific). His expecting someone so hypersensitive to live in a bubble is tantamount to expecting his disabled, elderly students, confined to wheelchairs / walkers, to stay in their homes and not bother the rest of us able-bodied persons to accommodate them as we get on with our daily business.

Yet, why the push for banning allergens, such as peanuts, from airline flights? In a word, time. As I mentioned earlier, the anaphylactic shock reaction is a cascade function, which is neither initiated or limited simply by the amount of allergen perceived. Therefore, reactions can occur with minute contact and reactions, once started, can progress into full anaphylactic shock. Once such a reaction occurs, treatment with epinephrine must be immediate. Those individuals who are diagnosed with hypersensitivity typically carry two doses of epinephrine with them at all times. However, while these injections provide immediate reversal of the allergic reaction, their effectiveness is limited in time (~30 minutes). Hence, it may be necessary to provide the individual with additional medical care.

This is why you see advocacy for limiting or banning allergens from airline flights and you don’t see advocacy for banning peanuts from, say, baseball games. I doubt that people, who are hypersensitive to peanuts, would choose to attend a major league baseball game, what with the bags of peanuts flying about. However, if they were to make the poor decision to attend such a game, and if they were to find themselves in anaphylactic shock, then a call to 911 would typically find paramedics at their side within minutes. The differences between the airline flight and the baseball game should be clear:  need vs. want, non-accessible vs. accessible medical facilities.

A commenter, emfdl, at hellinahandbasket, states,

Ban ‘em for all I care; I take my own peanut butter crackers with me when I fly. And I’m sorry, but if someone has that big a problem with an allergy, best they should stay in their air controlled bubble and let the rest of the world get on with life.

I don’t know who the person is, but if he truly believes that statement, then he’s an ignorant fool. And heaven help the likes of emfdl if they take that attitude while amongst me and my loved ones who suffer from allergic hypersensitivity.

Whenever I’ve heard of someone suffering a heart attack, while onboard an airline flight, it seems that the flight always diverts to the closest airport in order to provide that individual with the care they need. Rather than write-off individuals, with medically confirmed hypersensitivity, shouldn’t we extend them the same level of concern we do to other disabilities?

Also ref: The Peanut Allergy Answer Book

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Filed under: Ethics & MoralityMedicineRusty

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