By Allergen Bureau

Good News For Those Fearful Of Flying With Food Allergy  

People with food allergies often report feeling concerned and anxious about the risk of having an allergic reaction while travelling by air. In fact, a recent study has shown that despite large increases in passenger numbers and food allergy prevalence, the rate of allergy-related medical incidents in the air has not changed over the past 30 years. 

A systematic review with meta-analysis was carried out by a research team at Imperial College London to estimate the incidence of in-flight medical emergencies due to allergic reactions on commercial flights.  

They found the incidence of in-flight allergic reactions was 0.66 events per million passengers. This means that, for a typical food-allergic passenger, the risk of an accidental reaction is 1 reaction per 3,600 food-allergic passengers travelling on board an aircraft in any 1-year period. This is 10 to 100 times lower than the equivalent incidence in food-allergic individuals when not travelling. 

The study also found that the rate of in-flight medical emergencies due to food allergy has not changed significantly over the past 3 decades, despite a 7 per cent increase in passenger numbers and increasing prevalence of food allergy over the same period. This suggests that airline policies and the precautions taken by food-allergic passengers such as avoiding flying, wiping down their seat area, and bringing their own food, are effective in reducing the risk of in-flight allergic reactions. 

Reference: Turner et al. 2023. How Common Are Allergic Reactions During Commercial Flights? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. (In Press) DOI: 10.1016/j.jaip.2023.07.025. Open Access