AAAAI Calls for Lifesaving Medication on Airlines
Leading Allergy Organization Advocates to Put Epinephrine on Board
The bipartisan bill, introduced by U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Il) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) with co-sponsors Mark Warner (D-VA) and Ben Cardin (D-Md), is in line with current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that facilitate automated external defibrillator access and training. S. 1972 would extend those lifesaving measures and require airlines to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors on commercial aircrafts and train flight crews on proper administration in the event of a systemic allergic reaction.
With increasing prevalence, approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies. Many others also have acute allergic reactions to stinging insects, medications and other exposures. In the most serious cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur. This requires immediate medical treatment, including an injection of epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room.
“States across the country are enacting laws to ensure the availability of epinephrine auto-injectors in schools as well as private entities such as restaurants, sports facilities and amusement parks. This is based on the need for immediate treatment and the potential for death to occur before transfer can be made to a hospital emergency department,” AAAAI President Robert F. Lemanske, Jr. MD, FAAAAI, said.
“Clearly, this is of even greater concern on an airline flight thousands of feet above ground,” Lemanske emphasized.
AAAAI member Patricia Leonard, MD, who practices out of Houston ENT & Allergy agrees. Last summer, Leonard was on board an international flight from Dublin, Ireland to Newark, New Jersey when she was called upon to assist during a medical emergency. A four-year-old girl, with no prior history of food allergies, was having an anaphylactic reaction to the cashew nuts which were served midflight.
“I asked the flight attendant to get an epinephrine auto-injector but the plane was not equipped with the devices,” Leonard said. She found a stock solution of epinephrine in a bag of medical supplies and delivered the appropriate dosage intramuscularly. The girl was in stable condition when the plane landed after an emergency, high-speed return to Dublin (over an hour later).
“While caring for this 4-year-old child I became acutely aware of the obstacles involved in treating a person during a mid-air medical emergency. The noise of the engines, the distress of family members, the panic of nearby passengers, the apprehensiveness of the flight crew… You are confined to an airplane, thousands of feet in the air and often without a healthcare professional on board,” she explained.
Leonard has since become a vocal proponent for easier access to life-saving epinephrine, especially on airlines. “In the event of a passenger developing a severe allergic reaction while in flight, epinephrine auto-injectors must be available on the aircraft to facilitate prompt, accurate, medical treatment.”
AAAAI continues to actively support legislation that facilitates access to epinephrine, having previously supported the 2013 School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act and several smaller bills at the local and state levels. Go online to read S. 1972 in its entirety or view the AAAAI letter of support. More information on allergies and anaphylaxis is also available at the AAAAI website.
The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,800 members in the United States, Canada and 72 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.