Friday, November 9, 2007

Flying with Nuts -Part 1

A big thank you to my my sister-in-law who submitted this article. It is important enough that I think we should all be keenly aware what our children or their friends might be or are allergic to. Unfortunately, allergies can be life threatening. We count ourselves lucky because Claudia has never had an anaphylactic shock.

About a month ago we traveled to Romania to visit my Romanian side of the family and to introduce my husband to my relatives. Our daughter Claudia, age 4, is a veteran flyer by now, she has been traveling extensively since she was 1 1/2 years old.

I never thought of my daughter’s food allergy as a handicap or anything, but when trying to book through Orbitz I realized they have no options for people with life threatening allergies. They are concerned with vegan, low fat, low calories, etc. Their computer system needs to be updated to present times, when more and more people have diet restrictions because of health hazards; the diet preferences based on culture and religion, while important, are not as significant as having to avoid allergens in such a confined space as the passenger cabin of an airplane.

We had a scare on the Delta flight coming back home to US. From the start, the crew looked less than promising. From Bucharest to New York the flight is 10.5 hours long. We took crackers and a few other snacks for our daughter, just in case. The first snack served by the airline was peanuts. Bad for us, but a lot of people like peanuts. We politely refused the little packets of peanuts and told the flight attendants that our daughter is highly allergic and we will not have any.

Delta flight attendants are aware of the growing peanut allergy problem and the airline even has a policy of “safe buffer”. To make a long story short, it works like this: on another flight which served peanuts, the passengers in the row in front of us and we were spared of the peanut snack. But this was not the case on the return flight to New York. Smelling the peanuts around us, my heart pounded and I tried not to look worried; both my husband and I were watching my daughter’s face in case any sign of rash or swelling appeared around her eyes or neck. Finally the air cleared and we waited patiently for our next meal. For Claudia we chose a simple and safe dish: pasta.

We watched 3 movies, took a nap and played games to pass the time. We got really hungry and we anticipated our next meal with excitement: pizza. The description on the menu said nothing about nuts so we were hopeful Claudia will have a nice meal. When the food came, we were presented with a sandwich instead. We asked the flight attendants (again) about any nuts in the sandwich. I really feel foolish sometime when I keep asking the same question; but I owe it Claudia to make sure her food is safe. Answer being negative, we launched into devouring our sandwiches. My husband and I really liked the bread; it was a gourmet sandwich with blue cheese, tomato and basil on a bread baguette. Very yummy and we felt good to serve it to Claudia as well. However, she is not very keen on blue cheese (neither were some of the other passengers, we heard a few objections about the taste); so she only had a bite of bread before she started complaining about having an itchy mouth. I thought it was because she doesn’t like the blue cheese, she doesn’t even want to eat the bread, so I dismissed her by saying: “It is probably the blue cheese and basil you taste, please try another piece of bread”. At the same time I was pronouncing the words; my brain is processing the ingredients in the sandwich again: cheese, tomato, basil. Almost simultaneously with my husband we screamed the words: “Pesto Sauce!”. Before I go on about the panic that set in and I describe how quickly we found the Benadryl and gave it to her, I will explain the ingredients of pesto sauce, which is used in so many gourmet sandwiches: basil, oil, garlic, parmesan and walnuts or pine nuts. NUTS!! The antihistamine worked like a miracle, the itchiness in Claudia’s mouth stopped; we wrapped our unfinished sandwiches, placed them on a table far from her and waited. The entire experience had exhausted us.

Now I have mixed feelings about Delta. Half the time they were careful. It really matters who takes care of you in the air. The flight attendant’s care on the first flight saved us a lot of stress. The second crew kept giving us snacks and cakes which they had no idea what they’re made of.

If you have a child with allergies, you already know about the stress of flying. If you don’t have food allergies in your family, then enjoy the food, sometimes it can be quite delicious and fun. We love the little packages the airplane food is wrapped in. It is like having a tea party with my daughter every time we fly.


pat said...

baby travel tips
While living in Mexico I had my children and learned to use corn syrup instead of sugar. Turns out the sugar isn't very clean so the doctors tell you to use corn syrup. Another tip if you can't get clean water use a soda. HAHA makes a healthy but explosive drink. But then that's the least of your problems as long as you child is healthy who cares about the gas.

KC said...

I don't understand why, if they know that peanuts can be so dangerous, they continue to serve them at all on airplanes. There are other options.