Hong Kong general practitioner Lindsey Macdonald says people need to become more aware of the risk of nut allergies because - although a deadly reaction is rare - the number of such cases is on the rise globally.
'Sometimes, a person can't even be in the same room as a peanut, because of the scent from it,' she says.
In the west, companies and individuals are more aware of the dangers nuts pose, Macdonald says. British Airways wouldn't dream of serving peanuts, whereas she saw recently that Cathay Pacific still offers them. 'In Hong Kong, people need to be made more aware [that they shouldn't be served in public places],' she says. 'There's a definite increase in these allergies.'
Macdonald says no one knows why the number of cases is increasing, but it's likely to be due to a combination of factors involved in modern lifestyles, with diet and pollution topping the list.
Central-based homeopath Graeme Stuart Bradshaw says that, compared with other allergies (such as dairy, yeast, wheat), people with nut allergies make up a small percentage of the patients he treats.
He says research shows that one in 125 schoolchildren in the US have some form of nut allergy, but he doesn't know of any similar studies conducted in Hong Kong.
Many local schools are already taking action. 'We don't have a nut-free policy,' says Hong Kong Academy Primary School education director Teresa Richman. 'But we have a no-sharing policy and whatever they don't eat they take home.'