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Woman fights to make air travel safer for food allergy sufferers

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Woman fights to make air travel safer for food allergy sufferers
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Fifteen million Americans live with food allergies, including 8-year-old Joshua Mandelbaum.

"I will never stop worrying. I just want me to not have a peanut allergy," Joshua says.

Last fall, Josh and his mother, Lianne, decided not to board a United Airlines flight after the crew refused to make an announcement warning passengers that there was a child with an anaphylactic, or severe, peanut allergy on the plane.

"He said, 'If you think he's going to die, just don't get on the plane,'" Joshua says. "It made me feel very sad.

Lianne Mandelbaum subsequently launched NoNutTraveler.com, a website with resources for flyers with allergies, stories from passengers and a petition drive with more than 4,000 signatures urging action.

"How can a child's safety be dependent on the mood of a flight crew?" Lianne says. "If you get someone who got up and had a fight with their husband or wife that day and they're in a bad mood, well, they're not going to make the announcement."

Lianne Mandelbaum wants airlines to create policy in the event a child with a severe tree nut or peanut allergy is on board.

Allergy experts like pediatrician Dr. Paul Ehrlich say that at the minimum, airlines should have a standard of operations, allowing severely allergic customers to board first and cleaning the area around their seats.

"Wipe off the seats, not only where the child is going to be sitting, but also seats in front of where they're sitting, in the back," Ehrlich says. "Take the Benadryl. Have your adrenaline. That is sufficient."

Experts say airlines should also be stocked with tools like Auvi-Q or the well-known EpiPen.

"It does happen, and it is more common now than it used to be, and we have to take it into consideration," Ehrlich says.

Recently, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and JetBlue have reached out to Lianne Mandelbaum to set up meetings on the issue.

"We are not being overprotective and paranoid as parents," Lianne says. "What we're doing is trying to prevent a death."

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