Planes, Pets and Service Dogs: Tips for Flying with Allergies to Animal Dander
Let’s start with the fact that I do not have animal allergies that I know of. (I once tested positive for a dog allergy but I think that skin test didn’t work right, something with the control scratch test was odd. The next time, no such dog allergy, or to anything other than dust mites for that matter, was recorded). I’d love for one of my fellow Asthma.Net contributors to answer to this post from the perspective of someone with animal dander allergies.
I’ve been puppy-sitting for the last day and a half, for a beautiful black lab named Murray. Murray is as smart as he is cute, and is my friend Steve’s Guide Dog. This week, I’ll be traveling to California with Murray and Steve, which means jumping on a few airplanes. It will be my fourth trip with the duo this year alone, and to date I’ve jumped on 10 flight segments with them in 2016—soon to be 14. We’ve had flight attendants see Murray as we get off the plane and say “Oh, I didn’t even know there was a dog on this flight!” As Murray is a service animal, he is permitted to fly in the cabin, at Steve’s (and my) feet. However, seeing non-service animals on airplanes, in kennels, is becoming more and more common as increasing numbers of airlines allow pets to fly, in kennels, in the cabin.< Now, if you have allergies that impact your asthma (or, even if they don’t), a surprise like a dog in the cabin is probably not as much of a laugh for you as it is for some of our flight crew members that we’ve encountered. Each time Steve, Murray and I fly, as well as when we fly with another goalball team member and his Guide Dog, we phone ahead to the airline’s medical desk to make arrangements for the dogs. Depending on the aircraft, or who we are flying with, the airline may reserve the seat next to the person with a service dog to ensure the comfort of both the dog and passenger. This means, most of the time you should be able to find out exactly where a service dog will be seated. Your airline may vary regarding its pet policies, and the identification of pets to the airline pre-flight. Most airlines will know this information, and be able to make accommodations for you to sit as far from the animal as possible, so long as you prepare early. Call the airline’s medical staff as soon as you make your booking to put this information on file with them, and then a day or so before your flight to make these arrangements. When you arrive at your gate, confirm once more that your seating is appropriate for you.
Depending on the severity of your allergy, you might want to take antihistamines before the flight, but be careful to stay hydrated as these can sometimes cause dehydration on top of what you may already experience when in flight. Always keep your inhaler with you at your seat, just in case, and if you are prescribed an EpiPen or similar epinephrine auto-injector for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), ensure this is easily accessible, too. A friend also takes Lysol (or similar) wipes with her when flying, to clean her seat area, and pre-boards to ensure she has enough time to clean the area she is sitting in before other passengers begin boarding. With food allergies, a buffer is often made of a three rows in front of and behind the person with the severe allergy that is a “safe zone”—this may be an accommodation that helps if you are allergic to animal dander, too. Wearing a mask may also help you stay healthy on an airplane if you have animal allergies.
Absolutely, your safety is a priority for the airline, but the right to travel with a licensed service dog (or other animal) is the law, so choosing a pet-free airline might only help you avoid animals to whom you are allergic to an extent. Therefore, planning ahead as much as you possibly can is extremely important to make sure that you have the best flight experience possible.
Are service dogs something you have considered when booking a flight with pet allergies? How do you prepare to fly with allergies? Let us know in the comments.
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