'I was petrified of dying after my allergic reaction on a flight'

Love Island's Jack Fowler speaks to Yahoo about his allergic reaction to nuts on Emirates flight

Love Island's Jack Fowler shared his experiences of having an allergic reaction to nuts on an Emirates flight.
Love Island's Jack Fowler shared his experiences of having an allergic reaction to nuts on an Emirates flight. (Instagram)

I was petrified. I thought I'm gonna die on this flight. The action I would love to happen would be for airlines just to stop nuts being on their flights, that is the best compensation because ultimately no amount of money is good to you if you're dead.

I knew I was in big, big trouble. The allergic reaction was the worst possible thing to happen to me. I'm 40,000 ft up in the air with no doctor and no hospital. I'm dependent on the people around me. I'm still here because of those oxygen tanks. If I didn't have the oxygen tanks, I genuinely think I would have died. The adrenaline keeps your heart going but it doesn't keep your lungs open.

I honestly believe that if things don't change with airlines, people will die. Maybe only then will people and airlines listen. The whole point of me speaking out is to prevent needless death from happening.

I'm an ambassador for The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. Natasha, bless her, was a young girl aged 15 who died after consuming an allergen that wasn't listed on the ingredients of her shop-bought baguette. She died because she was on a flight and she was unable to get the urgent medical assistance she needed.

I’m very, very passionate about The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. I spoke to Natasha's mum, Tanya, to let her know, ‘I'm here supporting you as much as I can. I know Natasha's not here anymore, but I'm doing everything I can with Natasha in mind. Hopefully we can do something in the near future and maybe a new campaign to make something change.’

Love Island's Jack Fowler at a recent screening in London
Love Island's Jack Fowler at a recent screening in London. (Getty)

Emirates saying they can’t guarantee a nut-free environment is breathtaking because I have food in my house that is nut-free, so it is possible. This has happened not once but actually twice on an airplane, the first time was on Qatar Airways last year. Both times have happened in the Middle East and I understand that certain cultures have different things in their food. When you’re such a big airline, supposedly one of the best in the world, you have people from all over the world on your planes. The airline has a duty of care to make sure things like this don’t happen.

I took a night flight from London to Dubai. It was the first show of my DJ tour dates and I had the worst possible start. I was asked, ‘Do I want chicken or fish?’ and I wasn't given a menu to look at. And I said to the air host, ‘Do you know what one hasn't got nuts in?’ He said, ‘Neither of them.’ So I said, ‘OK, I'll get the chicken, please.’ Then I said, ‘Are you sure there's no nuts in this? Because I'm anaphylactic to nuts. I'm severely allergic.’ He again reassured me, there’s no nuts. When he brought the food back round, I said, just to be sure, ‘There’s no nuts in here?’ I was with my friend at the time, and we both said it, and the air host said, ‘No it’s just chicken and rice.’

So I trusted him. When I started eating, immediately my throat closed up and I said to my friend, ‘Look, are you sure there’s no nuts in this?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we both just checked. There’s no nuts.’ I said, ‘Oh you’re right.’ Then I had some more and I thought, ‘No, something's not right.’ I jumped up and realised I’m having a reaction to something. So I found a different air host, and I said, ‘What's in this? Is there nuts in this?’ She told me no. I said, ‘But there is something wrong, I can’t breathe.’ I asked to see the menus, they seemed reluctant to show me but my friend said, ‘We need to see the menu now.’ They showed us the menus and it said, ‘Chicken curry with creamy, cashew nuts.’

Love Island's Jack Fowler appeared on Good Morning Britain to give people with allergies a voice. (ITV screengrab)
Love Island's Jack Fowler appeared on Good Morning Britain to give people with allergies a voice. (ITV screengrab)

I knew straight away I was in serious trouble. I needed to get medical attention as soon as possible. I took an antihistamine which didn't work. Then the airline provided me with five tanks of oxygen and I had to administer my EpiPen, which is used for the emergency treatment of an allergic reaction. The only thing I could actually think of in the moment was to focus on my breathing. There was talk of diverting to Turkey but we didn’t. I was still on the flight for four hours.

I always have my EpiPen with me. When I have had a reaction before, I have relapsed. That was what I was petrified of because if I relapsed while I was in the air, I would have to take another EpiPen. If I take two, my body goes into a fit because of the amount of adrenaline in my system. It was a scary, scary time.

It’s really unfortunate because I do take a lot of long haul flights for work so I'm gonna have to not eat food on their flights and have to take my own. My nut allergy is something that I always have to think about. Some kids, when they grow up and have an allergy, they're quite embarrassed about it. I get that, I’m not embarrassed anymore, but I understand kids who are embarrassed to talk about their allergies because especially when you're young and you go out for dinner for the first time with your friends and you're going to university and you're meeting new people. You don't want to be the person that has to get the waiter over and to make sure there's no nuts on the table or to say, ‘Can you go and talk to the chef, please,’ and you feel like an inconvenience. But the reality is, if you don't do that, people are ignorant and they don't take you seriously and people die.

Love Island's Jack Fowler (pictured with Justine Ndiba) wants to use his platform to raise awareness. (Mark Taylor/Peacock/ITV via Getty Images)
Love Island's Jack Fowler (pictured with Justine Ndiba) wants to use his platform to raise awareness. (Mark Taylor/Peacock/ITV via Getty Images)

Instagram and social media is such a powerful thing. I'm really taken back by the response I've been given, the well wishes, and also the amount of people that can resonate with what's happened to me is quite scary because I didn't expect so many people to be able to relate. I went on Good Morning Britain to be the voice for all the people that have been through what I've been through.

Love Island is such a big part of my life, it propelled me in ways that I never thought was possible and I was so lucky to receive the reception that I've got. With the platform I now have, I have a responsibility to make sure people know about certain things. I can only talk about what I know and me as a person and having a nut allergy is part of me. I've had that all my life, since I was seven. If I can help prevent what's happened to me to anyone else out there to anyone else out there, then I'll be grateful for that.

There is a lot of ignorance about nut allergies and at the end of the day, I don’t blame them. It's about educating and it's about showing people the severity of anaphylaxis. We need to give the right teaching and skills to be given to flight attendants that are on our flights.

Jack Fowler told his story to Lily Waddell.

An Emirates spokesperson said: "We are sorry to hear of Mr Fowler's experience and our teams on ground are providing him with all possible assistance. The safety and health of our customers is taken very seriously.

"While Emirates aims to cater to customers with specific needs by offering a variety of special meals that cover medical, dietary, and religious requirements, we cannot guarantee a nut-free inflight environment. We urge travellers with dietary or other medical requirements to check our website and consult their doctor before travel."

Emirates also shared this link: https://www.emirates.com/ae/english/before-you-fly/health/

When approached by Yahoo this year, a spokesperson for Qatar Airways told us: "Passenger health and safety is our top priority and we urge any passenger with any food allergies to let us know at least 48 hours before travelling with us. As flights are public, however, an allergen-free environment is not guaranteed."