The friendly skies can be downright hostile if you’re one of the millions of airline passengers who suffer animal-related allergies. Add food allergies, and it becomes a transportation jungle.
That’s partly because airlines must consider competing needs: the passenger who needs a service animal versus the flier for whom animal dander is an issue, and the passenger who has a food allergy versus fliers who do not.
Disabled passengers who need service animals and passengers who suffer asthma and allergies are legally protected groups under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act.
“If a passenger has an allergy that rises to the level of a disability [e.g., produces shock or respiratory distress that could require emergency or significant medical treatment], and there is an individual with a service animal seated nearby, airlines have an obligation to accommodate both passengers under the ACAA,” DOT rules say. “One disability does not trump another.”
The solutions to these problems are imperfect and, in some cases, not yet in place. For now, here is what you need to know when passengers’ needs conflict and you or a loved one must be protected.
►Let the airline know ahead of time about your pet allergy and ask to be seated away from any animals.
►For additional protection, a passenger with a severe animal allergy should do a sinus rinse (salt, baking soda and water) immediately before boarding and immediately after deplaning, said Dr. Rita Kachru, an allergist/immunologist and assistant professor at UCLA.
►The passenger also should take an antihistamine before and after, and consider using a steroid nasal spray such as Flonase or Nasacort, she said.
As always, check with your doctor before taking medications or using procedures new to you.
What precautions do you take when flying? What are some tips you have learned that would help others when flying with asthma and/or animal allergy?