There's nothing nutty about saving lives

September 17, 1998|By Elise Chisolm

RECENTLY someone asked me jokingly, "Do you carry a gun in that bag, it's so big and heavy?"

No, I don't carry a gun, I told her, but I need a big bag because I carry an EpiPen, an emergency injection pen used by people who suffer serious allergic reactions.

I carry the life-saving medical device whenever I am with my 9-year-old grandson whose severely allergic to peanuts. Just a bite of something containing a peanut or its derivatives can send him into anaphylactic shock -- a deadly condition that includes itching, swelling, a swollen throat, and, possibly, respiratory arrest.

The EpiPen is the opposite of a gun; guns kill, the EpiPen saves lives.

Many people carry EpiPens to arrests the symptoms of a variety of allergies. But there are an estimated 1 million to 2 million people in America who are allergic to peanuts. In fact, scientists have found that the peanut allergy is more prevalent than in the past.

Peanut-free zones

Thankfully, now the U.S. Transportation Department has directed U.S. airlines to provide "peanut-free buffer zones" when passengers with peanut allergies request them.

Under the order, airlines have to set aside at least three rows where no peanuts can be served for any passenger who declares in advance a medically documented severe allergy to peanuts.

But guess what? The new guidelines have Southern farmers boiling mad. Lawmakers from peanut-producing states are decrying "more big government intervention."

Shame on them. The furor by the peanut growers smells a little like the powerful duplicitous tobacco lobby that for so many years told us nicotine is not addictive. And we all know now that cigarettes kill. We know that cigarette smoking has taken a big toll. Well, the peanut allergen can kill swiftly, too.

Nothing funny here

If these peanut farmers had ever seen a person go into food-induced anaphylaxis, they would desist from their greed.

There are even some people who are making fun of the flap of the new directive: "Here's an idea about nuts that sounds really nuts . . ." wrote columnist Clarence Page on this page on Sept. 9.

It's no laughing matter.

Twice in the past nine years US Airways has taken the peanuts off the flights on which my grandson was flying. This happened as a result of my daughter sending a letter accompanied by medical documentation to the airline requesting a no-peanut flight. A copy of the letter is also given to the flight attendants. Thanks to US Airways for the fine cooperation.

This can be done. American Airlines has already replaced peanuts with pretzels. Good.

But I am concerned with the fact that peanut-free seats are not enough. The air filter systems on long flights do not remove the peanut allergen from the planes ventilators. So people like my grandson would be in danger.

For the people who have this potential problem, I want to lobby for taking all peanuts off domestic airlines.

Pretzels, raisins anything else, please. Don't risk lives in the air.

Or, at least, peanut-free flights. We did it with cigarettes, so we can do it with the peanut.

The uninformed need to know that peanuts can be a lethal weapon.

Elise T. Chisolm is a former Evening Sun columnist.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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