Pets in Airline Cabins Pose Allergy Risk, Doctors Say

13 Mar
By RONI CARYN RABIN
Published: February 19, 2010

First peanuts. Now pets.

Air passengers with peanut allergies often have to make special arrangements before flying, but as airlines have started allowing pets in the passenger cabin, many more travelers are being exposed to unnecessary health risks, several Canadian doctors maintain.

In an editorial last week in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, the physicians called for banning pets from airplane passenger cabins, warning that exposure to animals can set off discomfort, asthma attacks or even life-threatening reactions.

“Pets can be accommodated comfortably and safely in airplane cargo holds, which is where they belong,” the doctors wrote.

One in 10 people have allergies to animals, and for some, exposure to dogs and cats can set off an asthma attack or a life-threatening reaction like anaphylaxis, said Dr. Matthew B. Stanbrook, the journal’s deputy scientific editor and an asthma specialist.

The editorial was in response to Air Canada’s decision last summer to start allowing small pets, including cats, dogs and birds, to travel in the passenger cabin. Many United States airlines have similar policies.

“The thing about allergies is they’re unpredictable,” Dr. Stanbrook said. “You can have mild reactions for a long time and then have a severe one — it’s hard to predict.”

A version of this article appeared in print on February 23, 2010, on page D6 of the New York edition.

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