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Traveling with allergies and asthma
Having allergies or asthma doesn't mean you can't travel, but it's a good idea to plan ahead.
Whether you're thinking of a long adventure or a short getaway, trips away from home can be a welcome break from the pressures of work and everyday life. But for people with asthma and allergies, travel can mean some anxiety about flare-ups as well. Traveling to different parts of the country may expose you to different—and maybe more—allergens and asthma triggers than you're used to.
Fortunately, some careful, early planning can help you anticipate and avoid problems, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) and other experts.
One of the most important steps to take is to have your allergies or asthma under control before you leave home, advises the AAAAI. That way, you know you're starting off as healthy as possible. If you need help, visit your allergist or doctor at least a month before your trip.
Also, think about where you're going and when you're going. Both decisions can affect the allergens or triggers you may face. For example, ocean breezes tend to be free of pollens, so the beach is a good destination for people with allergies.
The AAAAI offers the following tips for packing for a trip:
Remember your rescue medicine. Make sure to pack your rescue inhaler or an emergency epinephrine kit. Keep this medicine with you at all times.
Bring emergency contact information. This includes the phone number of your doctor and contact information for an allergist or medical center at your destination spot—you can find one by visiting the AAAAI's physician referral directory at allergist.aaaai.org/find/. Keep this information with you at all times.
Pack extra medication. With extra medicine on hand, you'll be prepared if your trip is extended for some reason.
If you're traveling by car:
- Keep the windows rolled up and use the air conditioner.
- Travel during the early morning or late evening, when air quality is better and there's less traffic.
- Don't travel in a car with anyone who is smoking.
- If you use a nebulizer, consider a portable one that plugs into the car's lighter.
If you're traveling by air:
- Keep medications in their original packaging. This helps as you go through airport security.
- Keep medications with you in your carry-on luggage. If your checked luggage is lost, you won't be without your medicines.
- Notify the airlines ahead of time if you have a food allergy or are allergic to animals.
- Drink plenty of water before and during the trip to stay hydrated.
- Use a saline spray once every hour to keep your nasal membranes moist.
- Take an antihistamine in advance.
- If you're congested, use your regular medicine and maybe a long-acting decongestant nasal spray before taking off and landing.
At your destination
Wherever you're going, take steps to make sure the home or hotel where you stay doesn't trigger an allergy or asthma attack.
If you're staying in someone's home, it's best to be honest about your allergies and asthma before you go. You may need to avoid staying in certain homes. And people with food allergies always have to be vigilant about home-cooked foods.
If you're staying in a hotel:
- Call ahead to book a "green" or allergy-free room.
- Request a room without carpets to minimize exposure to dust mites.
- Bring your own zipper cover for pillows.
- Request a sunny, dry room away from indoor pools to avoid molds.
For more advice on keeping allergies and asthma in check when you travel, talk with your healthcare provider.