Plan a Sneeze-Free, Wheeze-Free Summer Vacation
If you’re planning a vacation, and you or your child has allergies or asthma, proper planning can help you keep sneezes, sniffles, wheezing, and coughing under control. Use the following tips to make sure that allergy and asthma symptoms don’t derail your vacation fun.
Do Your Homework
Check weather and pollen forecasts for your U.S. vacation choices, and then plan accordingly. For example, if you’re allergic to ragweed, New York can be significantly better early in August rather than later.
Consider the beach or mountains. These locations are best bets for allergy fighters any time of year. Ocean breezes are generally free of allergens, and dust mites don’t thrive at elevations above 2,500 feet. Mold spores are killed by snow.
Talk to your allergist. This is especially important if you are going to travel abroad and may need vaccinations or immunizations. You also may want to talk to your allergist about where you’re going and what activities you may do. For example, locations with elevations above 5,000 feet may make breathing difficult, and cold weather can be a trigger for people with asthma. Asthmatics also should discuss activities like scuba diving.
Consider the beach or mountains. These locations are best bets for allergy fighters any time of year.
Check access to medical care. If you are going to a remote location or on a cruise, you should inquire about the type of medical care available.
Check Lodging Options
Request a nonsmoking room with air conditioning (a little more difficult when traveling abroad). Check availability of a portable HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) air purifier or HEPA filters for your room’s air conditioner. Find out if wood, tile, or seamless vinyl floors are available (a little less difficult when traveling abroad). Carpeting can be a breeding ground for dust mites. Consider renting a room with a kitchen or shipping food ahead if you have food allergies.
Pack in Your Suitcase
Don’t forget to put your medications in your carry-on luggage – and in the original bottles to avoid questions from airport security and customs agents. Make sure you pack quick-relief medications for asthma and an epinephrine kit if you or a family member has food or insect sting allergies. You also might want to bring a topical hydrocortisone cream and an over-the-counter antihistamine.
If you’re being treated with allergy shots, make sure you get your scheduled shot before you leave. If you will be traveling for more than a few weeks, ask your allergist to provide a treatment dose to take with you, and the name of a local allergist who can give you the shot.
Pack your peak flow meter and nebulizer. These can help you monitor your breathing and deliver medication. Many nebulizers come with an adaptor you can plug into your car. If you are traveling abroad, make sure you bring an adaptor to convert the electrical current.
Consider packing your mite-proof pillowcases to help keep dust mites under control. Bring wipes for trays and tables. This can help protect travelers with food allergies. If traveling abroad, consider bringing translated information on your allergies. This can be shared with a chef when dining out in a foreign country.
Prepare for the Ride
If traveling by car, keep your windows up and use your air conditioner. Consider getting your automobile’s air conditioner cleaned in advance. Travel during early morning or late evening hours, when air quality is better and traffic isn’t as heavy. If you rent a car, ask for one where no one has smoked.
When you travel by air, take an antihistamine in advance. If you’re congested, use your regular medication and consider using a long-acting decongestant nasal spray before takeoff and landing. Notify the airline of food allergies ahead of time. Get up frequently and walk around the cabin. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol to stay hydrated. Use a saline nasal spray once every hour to keep your nasal membranes moist.
Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, www.acaai.org
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Spring/Summer 2011.