Allergies can be life-or-death matter

Dr Yik Keng Yeong's arguments regarding allergies are flippant and reflect a clear lack of understanding and concern about the causes and outcome of severe allergic reactions to nuts, which can become fatal (No need to be draconian over allergen sensitivity; July 22).

This a life-or-death matter.

I had an anaphylactic reaction in 2010 when I ate noodles containing seafood and nuts in Bangkok. Never before did I have any sensitivity to nuts.

Within an hour, my body swelled, I could not breathe and collapsed.

I was taken to the nearest hospital, where doctors at the accident and emergency department injected me with high doses of adrenaline and steroids. I needed oxygen and other support.

Despite that, I began to have pulmonary oedema and heart failure.

As my condition was deteriorating, Singapore Ambassador Peter Chan arranged to move me to Bumrungrad Hospital, where I stayed in the intensive care unit for a week.

If not for the excellent medical care at the two hospitals in Bangkok and the strong support from Mr Chan, I certainly would not have survived.

While people with allergies like me try to manage our daily lives within safe environments, air travel poses a major challenge and risk.

Cabin air can become full of nut particles when a plane-load of passengers chew nuts and talk at the same time. The particles are toxic to those with nut allergies.

Why is it so essential for passengers to consume nuts at take-off?

Many airlines have a no-nuts policy, and serve pretzels, chips, dried fruit and so on, instead of nuts.

It cannot be the tyranny of the majority to inflict such a fatal blow to the minority allergy sufferers. Every life matters.

As a mature society, we Singaporeans must be more caring and inclusive, regardless of race, religion and severe allergies.

While sufferers carry several EpiPens and other allergy medications on flights, the efficacy of these will depend on the severity of the reaction.

In July 2015, when I was on a Eurostar train ride from Paris to London, the passenger next to me consumed a small packet of nuts at the start of the journey.

But the young man was later very apologetic when he heard me telling the stewardess serving meals that I was allergic to nuts. He did not consume any more nuts during the three-hour journey.

I strongly urge Singapore Airlines to adopt a "no-nuts" policy and hope that other airlines will follow suit.

Jaya Mohideen (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Allergies can be life-or-death matter'. Print Edition | Subscribe