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Airborne and Anxious

Thousands of feet in the sky and zero control of any situation. No hospital access and limited epinephrine. The number of available airlines to your destination starts to dwindle as you read their food allergy policies. Some look better than others, but even the best have the same message. No guarantees.

If you're anything like me, you felt anxiety reading that first paragraph.

I used to be terrified of flying, thinking that my reaction would be one thousand times worse just because I was in the air. I would freak out the entire flight, no matter how long or short it was. Part of it was the reality that a reaction could happen, and part of it was the flight attendants joking about me having my medications and telling my parents and me that even in a worse case scenario they might not be able to do an emergency landing. Followed up by one question; are we sure we want to take their flight?

Some people always know the perfect thing to say.

I don't view myself as a food allergy risk taker. I am extremely cautious and if I am unsure of something, I'd rather skip it than test it out. Let's just say I'm not a "may contain" kinda girl. I always eat a big, safe meal an hour or two before I go to the airport. Once I’m in the airport, I limit myself to the same foods. Anything made at home, Baked Lays, York Peppermint Patties, and the same brand of apple juice. I even take the same brand of gum, and chew a piece from the pack long before I get on the flight, just to double check that it is safe. Not exactly nutritional, but a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do in an airport.

I always make sure to check in with the flight attendant to let them know about my food allergies. This allows me to pre-board the plane to wipe down my seat, tray table, and window. Once on the plane, the flight attendant asks the rows in front and behind me to not consume my allergen during the flight. This buffer zone honestly doesn't offer me too much comfort, but at least I know nobody directly in front or behind me will be putting my life at risk.

I have had a lot of allergic reactions over the years without even consuming my allergen, which was the main reason I was so scared to fly. Last year, I was speaking to an allergist who has worked with thousands of patients, and reassured me about flying. As long as I did not eat my allergen and kept my hands away from my face, I would most likely not have a full blown anaphylactic reaction.

Of course I know there is always a risk, but I can't completely stop living my life because of my allergies. I'm responsible, carry my medication, and always have a plan of action in case something does go wrong. Unfortunately, there is a risk of a reaction pretty much everywhere, so I'm not going to let my allergies keep me from taking off.

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