Nuts Over Plane Food: A PSA

Hi there! I’m Grace.

Here’s my son. He’s 2. He loves trains, going swimming, reading with Mummy and Daddy, and eating pizza.

ya I know a lot of pic filters sori

Pretty cute, right?

What you don’t see is that he has a peanut allergy. You might not really understand how peanut allergies work.

A lot of Singaporeans don’t, either. That’s understandable, because peanut allergies were practically nonexistent in Singapore 15–20 years ago. But it’s changing. Roughly 0.5 percent of schoolchildren in Singapore are estimated to be allergic to peanuts today. What does that mean? Let’s say there are 40,000 kids in Primary 1. 0.5 percent is 200 Primary 1 kids, across the island, who are allergic to peanuts.

Don’t worry! I have a son who’s allergic to peanuts. Oh and my sister (aka my son’s Auntie Gail), is also allergic to peanuts. (I’m allergic only to cats, and it’s mild, and no one forces a cat to be in the same room as me, so it’s cool. I can assure you it wouldn’t be very pleasant for the cat.) So I know how this works. Here, let me explain a bit more.

Last week, a little boy had an allergic reaction to peanuts on an SIA flight. He’s 3. Not much older than my son. He probably likes trains and pizza and whatever else your average toddler likes.

Here’s the Daley family and their story. (Photo by James Hancock, ABC News.)

His parents did everything right. They asked for a peanut-free meal for their kid in advance, which should tip the airline off that hey there’s someone on board with an allergy. They carried epinephrine pens and antihistamine medication.

The airline did almost everything right, but there’s one thing it didn’t do that day, and that’s NOT serve peanuts on board a flight where someone has requested a nut-free meal.

Nope, it gave passengers their packets of peanuts, and as everyone around the Daleys began to eat, a cloud of airborne peanut dust made its way through the cabin.

Do you know what it’s like to have an allergic reaction to peanuts? First it starts with the itching. Your throat and nose get itchy. Sometimes your eyes swell shut. Sometimes your breathing goes into spasms — you gasp and gasp for air but you can’t breathe. Sometimes your throat swells. Sometimes you throw up. In a really severe case, your blood pressure drops and you go into anaphylactic shock.

Anyway, the kid survived. Fantastic. The airline crew did what they could — they swooped in to remove packets of nuts from his vicinity. Good on them. And now SIA is considering changing its snack policy. Awesome. What really gets me, though, is just how much Singaporeans don’t understand about peanut allergies.

Here, my friends, is some next-level ignorant shit. Beginning with the mildest misconceptions:

The ‘why didn’t the parents take precautions?’:

Actually, you can’t take medication ahead of time to prevent an allergic reaction to peanuts.

Also, even if you know that you have a food allergy, you don’t necessarily know how severe the reaction can be. Anaphylactic shock can happen the very first time someone tries a food. Or someone can have a mild first reaction, but react more severely the second time. Even if the allergy doesn’t appear severe at first, do you really want to risk it by trying it again?

Arguably, the parents already took appropriate precautions: they were flying with epi-pens and antihistamines, which is what saved the kid’s life!

A note on epi-pens: they’re not a magic bullet. (Umm…they’re not a vaccine either…) They only buy you a few minutes before you can get medical attention. Sometimes one isn’t enough. Sometimes people going into anaphylactic shock need to be full-on resuscitated: given IV fluids and oxygen. Why? BECAUSE THEY’VE STOPPED BREATHING.

The ‘slippery slope’:

This was the most common concern. “If they take away my peanuts, what else will be banned? Is nothing sacred?”

Peanuts are different. You know what food allergy reaction sends kids to KKH more than any other food allergy? Peanuts. That’s despite the fact that it’s not even the most common food allergy in Singapore. Not all food allergies are created equal.

Bonus fun fact: you can also get a food allergy as an adult. I don’t recommend it.

Clutching their pearls…I mean nuts:

“There goes my fav nuts!” (with a side of reading comprehension fail)

I hear you, Kenny! I also love peanuts. Kacang putih, peanut butter, thunder tea rice with peanuts, those boiled canned peanuts you get in porridge…peanuts are damn shiok.

But not when someone might die, mmkay?

I think you’ll survive the inconvenience.

The irony:

The obligatory racial attack, just for good measure:

Because there’s always that one netizen.

Special bodoh! award, for this guy who was both most misinformed and most emotionally invested to post dozens of comments. Here are 4 of the most special:

Ohhh yeah, there’s actually a business case for eliminating peanuts on planes by the way. An emergency landing BECAUSE SOMEONE IS DYING means passengers would have to be deplaned and rerouted. Bad news for the airline, bad news for the other passengers. That means YOU!

Anyway, when you say things like all of the above stuff, what I hear is you saying “Your child’s life is not as important as my right to eat peanuts over the course of a few hours’ flight”.

Think about what it feels like, say, to be a small, frightened child who’s panicking because their throat is tightening up and they can’t breathe and they’re starting to throw up, or their eyes swell shut, or perhaps they’re going into cardiac arrest, and not because of anything they did or ate or didn’t do, but because someone nearby insisted on their right to eat peanuts.

“A child’s life is not as important as my right to eat peanuts over the course of a few hours’ flight”. Is that what you really mean?



Wow, thanks for reading all the way! Just FYI, blanket policy: I don’t read or respond to comments.

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