No need to be draconian over allergen sensitivity

If Singapore Airlines is contemplating not serving nuts on board flights, then it should also consider excluding many other items on the menu, to be fair, all-inclusive and safe (Serving of nuts on SIA flights being reviewed; July 20).

Peanuts are a common allergen in Western populations, including those born to Asian parents residing in the West. But the sensitivity to them is far rarer in Asians born and bred in the East.

Asians are more likely to be allergic to seafood, fruits like apples, peaches, kiwis and strawberries, honey, chocolate, perfumes and a whole plethora of natural foods.

Allergic symptoms can run the gamut from sneezing to rashes to breathlessness to the rare full-blown anaphylactic shock.

By right, nobody who has stepped onto a farm and had the soles of their shoes stamped full of allergenic plant spores should be allowed on a plane.

Neither should those who have sprayed themselves with perfumed liquids or talc because they can be deadly to those who are hypersensitive.

So, those allowed on planes and, indeed, on any long-distance public transportation modes, should be unwashed, unperfumed and unshod.

They also should not be served any food, if one is to be logical and draconian about allergen sensitivity.

But being logical is not the same as being rational, not when the chances of developing a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis are extremely slim.

Many doctors do not see a single case of anaphylaxis during the entire tenure of their practice.

In any case, patients with a history of anaphylaxis should equip themselves with the necessary life-saving injections, which they can learn to administer on their own. I am sure all planes have these medications on board for emergencies too.

It is silly to ban some things on board flights out of a knee-jerk reaction, simply because of uneducated fear.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2017, with the headline 'No need to be draconian over allergen sensitivity'. Print Edition | Subscribe