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The problem with peanuts and planes

Submitted by on Thursday, 17 June 2010 No Comment

With an energy level that makes coffee nervous and a comedic style that coaxes even the most reticent into the water, Miss S is the best swim instructor on the planet.

This morning, she also was the most apologetic one. She’d bought treats for the kids, including Reese’s and Snickers. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know,” she said when she heard me tell Big Guy to choose carefully. I was happy that he immediately recognized and rejected the candy that contained peanut.

“It’s not big deal,” I said. “There’s still something he can have. We’re good.”

In general, we’re always good with minimal accommodation. I didn’t need peanut butter to be banned at the pool, because the kids were going home after class. I did ban Boots from eating it, though, since he’d be in proximity of Big Guy and Big Guy’s contact allergic. He’s also showing signs of late of being airborne allergic, which is why we’ll never set foot in an Asian restaurant again and why we quickly skeedaddled out of a restaurant at a county park last weekend when we saw peanuts on the floor. I don’t expect those places to change their menus or customs for me. We simply won’t go there.

We don’t need a peanut-free school, though Big Guy does need a peanut-free table and classroom and classmates who wash their hands after lunch.

Do we need peanut-free airlines? Indeed we do, and for a few reasons.

Imagine yourself choking to death – or drowning in your own mucus – 30,000 feet above the ground. You can take an epinephrine injection, but at best that buys you a half hour to get to emergency treatment. Where’s the nearest airfield that can handle a jet? How quickly can an ambulance get you to the hospital after that?

Big Guy has not yet reached that stage. Used to be, we were fine with flying as long as our family avoided peanuts. A flight attendant once scolded me for not requesting a peanut-free buffer, but we didn’t need it at the time. Now we do. A few weeks ago, Big Guy’s throat started swelling after he sat next to a friend who was eating Asian at a mall food court.  It’s the first reaction he’s had that didn’t involve touching or accidentally ingesting peanut.

Yes, there are those who say that commercial flight is a privilege, not a right – though it does amuse me when folks of that mindset assert their own “right” to eat peanuts where ever they please. For Big Guy at this stage in his life, that’s probably true that air travel is not essential. Cruel, but true. Part of his grandparents live 3,000 miles away but, hey, that’s an easy drive for a mom on her own with two kids. Tough it up, folks. There’s someone in seat 3A who demands his goobers.

Consider later in his life, though. It’s really not possible for every professional to do what flight-phobic sports commentator John Madden did later in his career and take buses and trains cross-country. Perhaps I should start praying that Big Guy tanks the SATs so business travel never becomes an issue. The poor kid wants to be a pilot, though. I hope the flight attendants believe him when he tells them he needs a peanut-free space.

The federal Department of Transportation currently is considering a peanut ban on airlines – comments are due Aug. 9 – and the proposal has riled up everyone from peanut farmers fearful of losing a $20 million a year market to those who insist an allergy is not a disability. Um, yes it is.

And a peanut allergy is not the same as someone who gets itchy, watery eyes from pollen or who doesn’t like people who wear excessive cologne. It’s potentially lethal dose of allergens notorious for floating through the air and adhering to upholstery. It’s a snack, for pete’s sake.  Will it really kill you to forego it for the duration of a domestic flight?

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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