Keep pets out of airline cabins to prevent allergic reactions
committee on health should take up the cause.
An allergic reaction can range from mild to lifethreatening, said Stanbrook, who routinely sees patients with allergies at the Asthma and Airway Centre at the University Health Network in Toronto.
When someone has an anaphylactic reaction, breathing can be affected and emergency assistance is needed, he said.
“ That’s bad enough when it happens on ground level,” he said. “If it happens in an airplane, far removed from any emergency measures and maybe hours away from landing, that could be very, very serious indeed, and possibly fatal.”
For this reason, he said airlines have an “extra duty of care” to ensure their environments are allergen free.
Estimates suggest at least 10 per cent of people are allergic to pets, with cat allergies being most common, Stanbrook noted.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline has had three complaints and isn’t aware of any serious allergic reactions.
Stanbrook contends that the safety of the passengers should be paramount. “And secondly there is an option that’s quite reasonable — pets can travel quite safely and comfortably in the cargo holds of planes,” he said. The editorial noted that service animals, for instance those assisting blind passengers, are infrequently present on planes and are not an issue.
MedAire, an Arizona-based company that responds to airline health emergencies around the globe, said it had 22 cases involving animals in 2008 and 2009. Sixteen were in-flight issues relating to passengers or crew with allergies to cats or dogs, and six were queries from gate agents with concerns prior to departure, said spokeswoman Jill Drake.