An Open Letter: To the Couple eating nuts on our flight

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This post was written about our recent trip and flight but the feelings behind it play out every day for families with food allergies. I’ll admit that it’s tone is much more serious and maybe even desperate. It was written from a mother’s heart. I was sitting across the aisle from the rest of my family and this letter details what I observed.  open letter to the couple eating peanuts

To the couple eating nuts sitting behind my son on the airplane,

You don’t know me. I’m the hyper-vigilant momma on board your flight who is more than slightly nervous you may kill her child. I saw you hide your ginormo bag of nuts when the flight attendant came over the speaker and announced that “a person with a peanut allergy” was on board. That person is my son. He is sitting directly in front of you.

I also saw you hide the bag of nuts every time I looked back at you and AGAIN when the flight attendant asked you to put them away.

You know it’s wrong or you wouldn’t hide it. Trust me, I have little kids, they don’t hide what they are doing unless they are breaking the rules.

Did you hear that? It was my heart pounding, not because of the “flight” but because of your snack. What if my son has a reaction, or worse?

A food allergy momma doesn’t just see a bag of nuts, granola or candy bar. We see a loaded weapon.

I know that may sound a little dramatic to you. Every 3 minutes someone experiences an allergic reaction that sends them to the ER. What do you think happens if you can’t get to the hospital?

The airline (Thank you Southwest) was nice enough to offer nut-free snacks. From where I’m sitting I could see you have several other bags as well. As a Food Allergy Momma I had a whole backpack full of snacks I would have happily given you for the added peace of mind of keeping my son safe.

I may be a little extra cautious. The night before the flight  my son’s face was covered in hives, his face was swollen and red from an unknown allergen. He has never had that reaction. I wondered if his immune system is overburdened already.

My husband thinks I’m crazy for never deleting pictures or videos of my kids. This is why. One person, not following the rules, could cause me to lose my baby. I’ll admit, I didn’t give food allergies that much consideration before I found out my kid was allergic. However I was always accommodating. I would ask questions and go out of my way to keep people safe, I call it being considerate or human.

In case you are wondering, it’s not the sight of peanuts that will hurt people with food allergies (hiding them doesn’t make a difference). For some people just being in the same room as a peanut will cause their throat to swell shut. Other people have to eat them to have a reaction. We don’t yet know the severity of my son’s allergy. He seems ok when in the same room as peanuts. The last time he ate something with peanuts his face and neck turned red, he started crying, and scratching his neck. He was 1-year-old and we’ve been diligent to keep him away from nuts.

One in 13 children have food allergies. There is no cure. I don’t want my son to be a statistic. More than 200 deaths occur each year due to food allergies. We carry two Epi Pen’s everywhere we go. Epi Pen’s are life saving during an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). If you watch the news you know that some people don’t survive even when they use multiple Epi Pens.

My son and the 6 million other children affected with food allergies are delightful, precious, beautiful, talented and brilliant. They deserve to grow up without fear of getting sick or dying. Even though my son is only 3 years old he is very careful about what he eats. I hate to say it but he has had bouts of anxiety about food. Sadly, that anxiety keeps him safe.

We are not so different, you appear to be health conscious and natural minded people. I’m only guessing that because of your snack choices like nuts, seaweed and dry roasted veggies. We may even shop at the same stores or read the same blogs.

Truthfully I don’t think you were being malicious. I think that you just didn’t realize how dangerous your actions could have been. My hope is that now you do. Next time please realize that my son’s life is more important than your snack.


Holly, a food allergy momma

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  1. Wow…sorry Holly!

  2. oh my gosh – I can’t imagine how you must have felt. Thank you for writing this – I try to be very conscious of these things “just in case” but now I will pay even more attention. I’m glad you guys are ok. xo

    • Thank you Jessica! I think most people would never knowingly put someone’s life at risk but there are still people who do not understand how severe allergies can be.

  3. Oh Holly….this is the reason I have given up on my gym 🙁 People who just do not get it!

    • Sarah I’m about to cancel my membership I’m afraid. They just don’t understand. It takes him weeks to clear up after casual contact with wheat and kids are always running around with snacks.

    • I just found snacks in our toddler room at the gym, & said something to the staff to try & get a sign saying that no snacks were allowed. Even if my son didn’t have multiple allergies, I still would not bring food to the gym…It is not a place to eat IMO anyway…I hope they do decide to post a sign & enforce it, because I don’t think I can take losing the gym too (my de-stresser)… 🙁

      • Hi Amanda,
        I was told “no food” would be in the kid area when I signed up but of course it is always there. I haven’t been back since I saw almonds in there. I still need to get back an cancel my membership. I’m just not comfortable taking my son. He got hives pretty much every time he was in there. I hope you don’t have to give up your gym. Maybe they will be more accommodating to you.

  4. If it was announced, and I saw someone with nuts, I would have said something to them. And if it came down to it, I’d just take the nuts away and toss them in the trash far away from my child. Allergies are not joke. You don’t have to be nice.

    On the other hand, the people probably don’t understand the severity and were just being douchy.

    • It was announced. My husband heard them make ignorant comments about allergies. They would hide them every time the flight attendants came around or when I looked at them.
      They were also randomly making out for all to see.

  5. I am so sorry. Our daughter is one who reacts to the smell. We found out when she was just 2 months old, we had peanut butter in our oatmeal every morning and she would turn bright read and when she could scratch she would just tear her face up scratching. She still reacts to the smell and our allergy doctor is clear to always so, “past reactions are not predictions of future reactions.” I am truly so sorry. You are a much kinder person than I. I would have made a horrible fuss. 🙂

    • Oh Kerri, I cannot imagine how difficult handling such a severe reaction would be. We are very fortunate (and diligent) that our son hasn’t had a more severe reaction. We watch him very closely when out in public, especially if we are in a place with food. I know reactions can escalate quickly and people can become anaphylactic even if they have never experienced allergic symptoms before.

  6. Glad to see this post. I am an adult who has had food allergies my entire life. Several times I’ve had to ask people on planes to please put away their nuts as I was already starting to have trouble breathing. Most people don’t really understand the severity of food allergies. I hope this post makes more people aware as it is really scary if you find yourself in a situation like this.

    • Ilene, thank you for sharing your experience. I agree, people don’t realize how severe food allergies are. Most people think it is something he will outgrow and while I hope he does outgrow them I don’t think it is very likely.

  7. Kristen says:

    Thanking you for bringing awareness to this issue, Holly, My daughter is allergic to peanuts & all tree nuts and I can’t imagine sitting in front of someone like this. I think I would have confronted the people (I’m not usually like this, but I’ll be loud & “heard” for my children’s safety!). Were you able to move to a different seat? I hope others read your letter & realize the safety of so many children is at stake when others are not cautious- esp. in a plane when you are “trapped” or confined to a small space & unable to truly get away from the situation.

    • Thank you Kristen! I have heard from a lot of people without food allergies that had no idea how scary they are for us. I am thankful to be able to bring awareness to the issue. The most important thing is that my son is safe and did not have a reaction while on the plane. I was still very nervous the whole flight.

  8. Annette H says:

    I would like to say that I cannot believe people would be so inconsiderate. Unfortunately, many are and it seems to be getting worse. It’s one thing to do something that would annoy someone by your inconsiderate behaviors, it’s another thing entirely to act in an inconsiderate manner that might kill another human being. I hope that these people will see your blog and “get it”. More importantly, since your son is safe, may this article stop someone else from acting in such a manner, thus preventing someone else’s reaction. It’s too scary to mess around!

  9. So sorry to hear that happened Holly. That sounds so scary. I think, me being so outspoken, would have probably chewed her out, especially since she wasn’t even listening to the flight attendant. She sounded so defiant. I’m glad everything turned out alright, but I certainly hope someway somehow she or many others see this post, that don’t know how serious allergies can be.

    • Thank you Brandi! I hope this post gets spread around to people who have never even considered how dangerous food can be to some people.

  10. I give Southwest airlines kudos! I was flying to Seattle on May 29th and it was a very clear announcement that we had a child with a peanut allergy. They substituted snacks and it seemed that all aboard didn’t have any problems with it. (at lease those around where I was) If this was your flight, I think the hostess, if after the second request for those people to put away the peanuts, should have requested they give them to her till they landed. Sorry you had to fly scared with inconsiderate nincompoops!!!

  11. Beautifully written, Holly. You don’t come off as desperate at all – the love you have for your family is what the reader feels. Not too long ago I was on a SW flight where they announced that someone had a peanut allergy. I don’t have kids, I don’t have any food allergies, but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand how serious it can be for people who DO have allergies. Why on earth would I want to risk someone else’s life because I didn’t have the self-control or empathy to wait until after I’d left the plane to eat the peanuts I’d brought with me??

    • Thank you Ann and Thank you for sharing this Open letter with your friends and readers. The best most of us can do is to raise awareness. With the trend in food allergies one day peanuts will probably be banned. I for one love nuts and peanuts but avoid them for the sake of my son.

      The next time we fly I plan to print out a paper to distribute to those sitting around us.

  12. i think you are too kind.I would have given them a piece of my mind.I read your post and was utterly shocked.Ignorance is one thing but acting like this..Sadly people never ever understand however there are a very few who do.My kiddo has life threatening allergies and sits at school in the nut free table and feels so left out.They have pizza parties at every event and he gets straight contact hives.Fortunately Im a class mom and have tiger eyes always.Infact his class friends understand better than their parents.. 🙁
    I am sad that you had to go through this and thankful your kiddo is alright

    • Sharanya,
      My son gets hives pretty much everywhere we go. It’s mostly noticeable on his face. I’m sure this will be the case once he starts school. I’m looking for a preschool for him now but I don’t know if I’ll find one I’m comfortable with. My 5 year old is a great advocate for his little brother. I was explaining to him about the peanut free tables since he will be in kindergarten next year. He doesn’t have food allergies but I know he will include others and sit with them.

  13. innerspacegirl says:

    Though I know that some people have allergic reactions to perfumes, I have never heard of someone having a reaction from being in the same room as peanuts and I suspect that this is new information to many people. If the flight attendant made an announcement then the couple in question were clearly behaving very badly and knew it!

    • Yes, They were definitely inconsiderate. You could tell by the way they kept hiding their “stash”

      I’ve heard of a growing number of people who are allergic to peanuts and have reactions based on the smell or if it touches their skin. Based on the reactions we’ve seen with our son and the fact that past reactions are not predictors of future reactions we try to be as careful as possible.

  14. Thank you so much for helping to spread awareness, Holly. The last time we flew, last year, the airlines refused to even make the courtesy announcement that there was a young child on board with life-threatening peanut allergies. They said it was against their policy. My husband argued that, if he were a passenger, and inadvertently harmed (or worse) a child by eating nuts, he would be devastated, not to mention furious that he hadn’t been made aware. I’m glad that your son is okay. Please keep spreading the word; our kids’ lives depend on it!

    • I have heard the stories of airlines doing that. I researched airline policy before I booked our flight. Southwest allowed me to board early and wipe down all of the surfaces before my husband boarded with my son. It gave us a little extra peace of mind.

      I think most passengers would bend over backward for a kid with allergies. I’ve decided to print out cards to distribute next time we fly. I’ll put my son’s picture and some facts about food allergies.

      • Great post! That’s exactly what I plan to do (make cards), too! I have some, already, with facts about food allergies, but I am going to make some to have on hand to give to anyone who might need a quiet explanation of the situation. I don’t want to have a tense conversation in front of my 5-year-old. :O

        • Thank you Selena! I agree that cards would definitely help with a quiet conversation. Last week we were talking about a new place we were going and how it was safe and my 3 year old misheard and said, “am I gonna die”
          It broke my heart that a 3 year old would ever wonder that.
          On a different note I think we will both be at FAB Con. I hope to meet you!

  15. Tania, I’m glad you had a good experience with Southwest. I generally prefer them to other airlines. We felt like the airline did their part. We rarely fly with our little guy. If our destination is within a 2 days drive we just roadtrip it. This time we had to fly to Michigan (from Arizona). Thankfully we don’t have any other trips planned in the near future.

  16. You are a great mom Holly. You are so helpful with spreading awareness and helping people to learn to cope with their own allergies or allergies that develop with people around them. Thank you for all that you do. It changes lives and families.

  17. My trouble is with the older generation they just dont understand the risks. A family member gave my sons cousins peanut butter sandwichs around him even offered him one and after being told off by my hubby nearly used the same knife to cut his toast..luckly was being watched! My son came up in spots and was lucky I had his medicine with me. The same woman has seen pics of him in a & e with eyes swollen shut and an oxygen mask on as his throat was closing up. I’m not sure what would make her take the allergy seriously I mean near death experience would make most people think twice!! It scares me that people take allergys so lightly. I am blessed his seems to be only when on his skin or ingested so is relatively easy to control as long as I’m careful. I am so impressed by people like yourselves who have to control wider ranges of allergies as I find if you know what to look for and bake a bit avoiding nuts is not so hard once your used to reading labels…a lot. Good job trying to spread the word. The world is changing and so are peoples awareness thanks to blogging and documentrys etc. 🙂

    • Hi Tracey, It is so hard. I have it a little easier for now because my son isn’t in school yet so I almost always control his environment. We have never had to use our EPI pen. We practice all the time though and are always talking about allergies. Also, my son is only ana to peanut, the rest are intolerances but they are still serious and can cause weeks of pain and discomfort. Right now we are dealing with an infection from eczema.

      I’m going to keep spreading the message and hopefully we can educate people and change minds along the way. Thanks for sharing your story. All of our experiences are so different that we have a lot to learn from one another.

  18. Roberta Conway says:

    My problem with food allergies has always been that my family has weird ones. Not the more “common” peanuts, nuts, eggs, etc but rice, clams and lactose intolerance. Every year as school started I would get a list of “allowable” snacks andfoods that I would promptly send back highlighted with all the ones that my family was allergic to. Invariably we were left with maybe 2 or 3 that we could use.
    There was a two-tier system of food allergies. I kid you not. Because my children would not drop dead immediately from anaphalaxis, we were told the allergies “weren’t really allergies” so the school didn’t have to care if my child died in incredible pain feeling like their bowels were being ripped out and in hospital 2 days later.

    We had one year where literally everything my daughter could tolerate, another kid was allergic to. If I remember correctly it was a list of 34 foods that could not be brought into the school. Not including the ones I didn’t want in my house because I was allergic to them. Add to that financial restraints and see how easy it is to plan a school lunch.

    It always came down to the issue of liability more than anything else. And as a military family, we had lived in 4 different provinces and we dodn’t have a choice of where we wanted to live or go to school and it was the same everywhere. If your kid got sick on their premises, the schools and the parents cared. If my kid reacted 6 hours later after school was over, they did not.

    I have no solution for the two-tier allergy system and I feel for every one involved but we need to come up with somethinh so that everyone is safe .

What do YOU think?