One of the best parts of travel is the opportunity to replace daily routines with new experiences. For people with allergies and asthma – whose immune systems may be easily knocked off balance – that very change can be a challenge.
If you struggle to stay on top of asthma or allergy symptoms at home, it’s not likely to get easier when you travel. Start by seeing your doctor to review your asthma action plan and improve control of your symptoms. Get yourself as healthy as possible, and work with your physician to identify the allergens and irritants most likely to set off your symptoms. When planning a major trip, talk with your doctor about your itinerary and transportation arrangements. Discuss environments or activities that might affect your health and steps you can take to minimize risk. Ask the best way to contact the doctor if you need advice while traveling, and keep a printed copy of your asthma or allergy action plan with you at all times.
When you know what you’re allergic to, you can make plans to avoid exposure. Air travel does not have to be a problem. Contact the airline before making your reservations to be sure they can address your needs. Ask about food, pet or latex policies, if they affect you, and then make sure the flight crew is aware of your allergies when you get on board.
If your asthma is not well-controlled, discuss this with your doctor before you take a flight. Airplane cabins are pressurized to compensate for lower levels of oxygen, but only to the equivalent of 5,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. Most people—even those with severe asthma—are able to adjust to this change in pressure with relative ease, but your doctor can tell you what you should watch for.
The air onboard an airplane also tends to be dry, which can aggravate the airway and cause symptoms to flare. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids before and during your flight to help offset the effects of breathing air with low levels of humidity. Skip the caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you even more.
Pack it in
Be sure to pack all of your medications in your carry-on luggage; bring all you will need for the length of your trip plus a little extra, just to be safe. Make a list of the brand and generic names and keep it with your passport, license or other important papers, in case you get separated from your luggage. Be aware that medicine names may be different in foreign countries.
Keep emergency medications like your quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler or epinephrine auto-injector with you at your seat rather than in an overhead compartment. If you prefer using a nebulizer, check out the small, handheld units available from allergy supply companies You will likely need prescription and your insurance may not cover the cost, but the convenience could easily be worth the trouble.
You should not have any trouble bringing your inhaler, epinephrine auto-injector or even a portable nebulizer through security. TSA and FAA regulations permit these devices in your carry-on luggage for medical reasons. They should be declared at security checkpoints for inspection in order to prevent any delays. If travelling through overseas airports, check local requirements, as rules do vary.