Your Guide for Asthma-Friendly Travel
If you or a loved one has asthma, navigating travel and different environments can be tricky. With a little preparation, your travel can be more asthma-friendly.
Asthma Travel Pack
Create an asthma travel pack to ensure you have all of the medicines and instructions you need in one, easily accessible place. When creating your asthma travel pack, consider including
- copies of your asthma action plan;
- an extra written prescription in case medication is lost or destroyed;
- insurance card and healthcare provider contact information;
- both quick-relief and controller medications (enough to get you through your stay, and extra in case you get held over unexpectedly);
- a spacer or chamber, if prescribed by your doctor; and
- a peak flow meter, if prescribed by your doctor.
Store your asthma travel pack and medicines at the correct temperature. Medicines may be exposed to extreme temperatures if they are stored in luggage checked at the airport or in your car. If your child is traveling without you, ensure his or her caregivers have access to the asthma travel pack and understand its contents, how to follow the instructions on the asthma action plan, how to administer medicines, and what to do during a breathing emergency. If you are prone to frequent asthma symptoms or will be gone for an extended period, it’s important to know where you can get medical attention if needed. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a doctor or healthcare facility close to where you’ll be staying.
Prepare for Temperature Changes
When on vacation, you may be going from a warm to a cold climate, or vice versa. Extreme changes in temperature can trigger asthma. Try to stay indoors if it’s hot or humid outside, and wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth if it’s very cold.
Whether you are staying in a hotel or at grandma’s house, you may be exposed to the same triggers found in your home, and possibly new triggers.
Fly with Confidence
According to the Transportation Security Administration, www.tsa.gov, nebulizers are permitted in both check-in and carry-on luggage. It’s best to pack your nebulizer, quick-relief, and other asthma medicines in your carry-on, even during short flights. It’s important to have your medicine with you at all times. You never know when you may get stuck on the plane, or if your suitcase will get lost.
Choosing a Place to Stay
Whether you are staying in a hotel or at grandma’s house, remember that you may be exposed to the same triggers found in your home, and possibly new triggers. Complete this checklist when considering lodging:
Request a Smoke-Free Environment
Choose a hotel that is completely smokefree. Cigarette and cigar smoke can travel through the heating and cooling systems into your room. If a smoke-free hotel is not available, stay in a nonsmoking room on a nonsmoking floor. If you are staying with family or friends, ask to stay with those who don’t smoke. If residents do smoke, ask them to smoke outside.
Some hotels now offer rooms that minimize allergens. They may be furnished with hardwood floors instead of carpet, have shades instead of fabric drapes, and use hypoallergenic linens.
Go Fragrance Free
If strong odors trigger your asthma, ask for a hotel room without scented soaps, lotions, or cleaning products. If you’re a houseguest, ask your host not to burn candles or incense, or use air fresheners.
If you’re traveling to a colder climate, you may gather around the fireplace or warm your housing accommodations with wood-burning stoves, but their smoke can trigger an asthma episode. Kerosene and gas space heaters can also worsen asthma symptoms.
Reduce Exposure to Pets
If pet dander is a trigger, ask for a hotel room that has not housed pets. If those hosting you have pets, ask that the pet stay out of the room you are staying in to reduce your exposure. Wash your hands after touching the pet to remove any dander.
Bring Your Own Bedding
If you use a special pillowcase or mattress covers to reduce dust mite exposure, consider bringing them with you. Hypoallergenic “sleep sacks” are designed to use when staying in hotels to protect you from allergens, and can be purchased at stores that sell bedding.
Watch Out for Chlorine
Swimming is great exercise, but chlorine and other chemicals found in pools can trigger asthma. Make sure the pool area is well ventilated and doesn’t have a strong chlorine or chemical odor.
Emotions can run high when you travel. Stress, excitement, anger, crying, and even laughing really hard can trigger an asthma episode. Practice deep breathing to help reduce stress and excitement. Try to stick to your regular exercise routine, eat healthy, and get plenty of rest.
Source: American Lung Association, www.lung.org, 1-800-LUNGUSA
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, March/April 2012.