A 4 year old girl had an anaphylactic reaction on a Ryanair flight recently after a man ignored an announcement asking people not to eat nuts.
People have responded in anger – but many not to the man who ate the nuts but the parents asking for the ban!
People have asked ‘why should I have to change my habits for one person?’ or declared that the parents are irresponsible for taking her on a flight. There has been an uproar in newspaper comments pages, similar to those received when a nut ban is imposed in a school.
I personally always reply with, ‘How would you feel if it was your child?’
However, when I ask myself this question I get a more complicated reply.
J has multiple allergies, including nuts, and is anaphylactic to dairy. So although I feel reassured that there would be one less allergen in the air, it doesn’t solve our problems.
Could I ask people not to have milk in their tea on a flight or ban cheese and yoghurt from nursery lunches? No, it just wouldn’t be possible.
False sense of security
This is where I see the inherent problem with nut bans; it creates a false sense of security.
Firstly, you can never make an environment 100% safe. There will always be people who flout rules, there can be hidden ingredients, crumbs on furniture and people who haven’t washed there hands after eating.
Secondly, any kind of ban puts people on the defensive and changes the focus of the conversation. This story shouldn’t be about whether people have the right to eat nuts but about highlighting a life threatening medical condition.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why parents ask for nut bans and especially in this case, where the girl was allergic to airborne particles.
Yet, as we can see from the absurd and offensive reactions from the public, many people do not understand.
This is why I think it is important to try and make people more allergy aware and help educate them about the dangers. We need to work hard to change people’s attitudes and provide practical steps to keep our children safe in all situations, not just issue blanket bans that draw attention away from the real issue.
What do you do to help people understand your child’s allergies? What do you think about nut bans?