With planning and preparation, you and your child can travel and successfully manage asthma. What asthma management tools do you need to pack? What should you research about your child’s travel destination ahead of time? What about going to sleepover camps or classmates’ birthday parties? In our latest “Pediatric Asthma” podcast, join pediatric nurse practitioner Jodie Stabinski, RN, as she discusses tips and strategies to manage asthma on the go.
This podcast is sponsored by Allergy & Asthma Network in support of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) EXHALE technical package. The goal of the EXHALE technical package is to help people – especially children – control asthma and reduce emergency room visits.
In this Episode…
2:15 – The importance of your child’s Asthma Action Plan
3:10 – Putting together a travel safety kit for your child
4:40 – Packing nebulizers for TSA checks
5:26 – Asthma triggers at travel destinations
6:58 – Travel and exposure to respiratory viruses
8:24 – Staying hydrated
9:15 – Pre-medicating before certain activities
10:18 – Staying in a hotel room
12:05 – Keeping the focus on fun
The following is an edited transcript of the Kids Breathe Better podcast episode 3: “When Your Child Leaves Home with Asthma – Travel, Friends and More.”
Thasia: Hello, and welcome to Kids Breathe Better, a podcast series designed to give parents and caregivers helpful tips and strategies to maintain their child’s asthma symptoms. Please welcome our host, Jodie Stabinski. A pediatric nurse practitioner, she has over 35 years of experience working with kids with asthma and other pulmonary concerns at the outpatient clinic at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. She also is a pediatrics instructor for the Family Nurse Practitioner Program and educates professional groups on a national level. Today, Jodie will discuss tips and strategies to keep your child safe when they travel or visit friends. This podcast episode is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Thank you for joining us today. Now we’ll turn it over to Jodie.
Jodie: Hi, my name is Jodie Stabinski, and I want to thank you all for coming today and listening to this podcast. Through this podcast, we’re going to be discussing traveling with your child with asthma. This will be helpful for parents and caretakers in preparation if you are traveling on a holiday vacation over Christmas or Thanksgiving, summer vacation, family trips, a day trip, a sleepover camp, and trips with friends. Remember, no matter what, it’s very important that your child knows that they can travel and you, as the caretaker and parent, have to prepare in order to make this trip the best possible experience for them.
The key is to have a plan, have the medications at hand, and also have written information for people that may be overseeing your child and their healthcare needs.
Camps typically have forms to fill out, but if you are traveling in a different way and not having a camp, those forms can still be helpful. The forms include the insurance card and an Asthma Action Plan similar to the one that you give your child’s school. It also has important information such as the triggers and phone numbers that are at your hand for your final destination. Those numbers include your provider for your child’s asthma, an urgent care center or hospital close to where your destination is, and the closest pharmacy. You may not need these numbers, but it’s important that if you’re having an issue with your child, you have these already together.
You want to be prepared, as I keep repeating. So we have the Asthma Action Plan. We are going to put a kit together that will include that Asthma Action Plan and those phone numbers. In the kit, you’re going to have all the medications that your child may need. This means the daily controller medications and inhalers, spacers, the inhaler that you utilize for exacerbations or symptoms, also medications for their allergies if needed, and also a good supply of what you’re going to need and the information on what these medications are. It should stay with your child, especially if they’re flying. You do not want to pack this separately in a checked bag. Understand that the check bags sometimes don’t always make it to their destination the same time you do. So keeping this with your child is very important.
That kit will also be going through the TSA checking. They’ll be scanning it. It’s important again to remember that these medications that you have are labeled. Nebulizers sometimes can be a problem during scanning. Their motor is very compact and it may cause some problems. You may find some delays in unpacking the nebulizer. Talk with your provider because usually in the start of an exacerbation the metered-dose inhalers perform similarly to nebulizers.
Remember, the medications are highly individualized, so plan ahead and discuss them with your provider. Also, remember communication if you are not able to travel with your child. The adult that’s in charge should understand how to utilize these medicines and what they’re for and be familiar with the Asthma Action Plan.
Another thing that you want to remember is to have some supplies that are going to last for your entire trip. We have that kit all together. You want to look ahead to where your destination may be and possible triggers. Those include weather, environmental allergies, pollen counts. Air quality is something that we should be paying attention to, especially if you’re going to a new place such as a city, or cities that may have pollution that your child may be exposed to. Also humidity, warm climates or cold climates – if you’re going especially on a skiing trip, you may want to talk about the elevation and how that may trigger your child or affect your child.
If you are flying, remember that sometimes the pressurized air in the plane can also trigger the child. So you want to talk at length with your child to make sure they communicate if they are feeling tight and act on that with the plan we talked about. Whoever is chaperoning – if you are unable to be with your child – should have an understanding of what to expect and issues that may arise. Early action is always the key.
One of the other things that we are more aware of in this day and age is viruses. Again, traveling, especially in a large crowd, can expose your child to all kinds of things. So also in the kit and also with your child should be antimicrobial gel or a type of substance that can clean your child’s hands. This comes in handy when you are at an amusement park, or you’ve been traveling and you have various touch points along the way and then you sit down to eat food with your fingers.
It’s very easy to make sure you hand wash, but sometimes it’s hard to find again a place to really wash your hands. So the antimicrobial or antibacterial is very helpful right before they sit down to eat those French fries or anything. Again, like a hot dog. We’re decreasing the amount of germs, and not to be a germaphobe, but you want to be very aware of these things and enjoy your vacation. You don’t want to spend time treating your child because they picked up a virus.
Making sure hydration is around and available – this means you might have to bring water bottles with you to various places. And it is helpful, especially if you are in a humid environment or in a place where the temperatures are warmer, that you keep your child hydrated.
Looking at a sleepover situation, you want to be familiar with the environment, pets, smoking, parents, those types of things. Or when you’re in a car where the parents smoke, having a discussion – not to be threatening to them – on some of these exposures. Even campfires sometimes can be triggers. So you want to plan.
Sometimes your child may need to have their antihistamine daily at that point, or if they have pet allergens, to just make sure the parents are aware the pets shouldn’t be sleeping with the child. Educate your child on decreasing the exposure of that pet. We want to lessen those triggers, but sometimes we can’t control it and they do have some symptoms.
So early intervention is key. This also means maybe depending on some of the activities that your child may be planning on. Some children have to be premedicated before these certain activities. And again, having a plan with the chaperone or the parent that’s in charge of your child if you’re not there, making sure those medications are given prior to the adventure or the activities.
If you’re staying in a hotel, you can request an allergy-proof room. Sometimes that’s very possible. Or making sure that it’s not on the same level of smoking rooms, that type of thing. If you are renting a home, sometimes you want to air the home out prior to coming, especially if it’s at the beach where there’s a lot of humidity. The damp musty smell sometimes is better if you aerate the house first. Also, bringing your child’s pillow and the blanket sometimes also cuts down on some of those allergy triggers. You can also request hypoallergenic bedding at certain hotels. Again, checking that out prior to the trip is very helpful.
We talked about air quality, pollen counts, and understanding that pollution can be an issue if your child has not really been in an inner city before. Be aware that if your child is starting to have an increased cough or noticing that they’re starting to take bigger breaths or they’re more congested, you want to talk with your provider to make sure you have a plan that you have early intervention into that. And we talked about, if needed, you have the locations of a pharmacy that may be close to hand or an urgent care. The other thing you may want to discuss with your provider before traveling is, some people will take oral steroids if needed, but that you discuss them on an individual basis with your provider.
One of the best things too is that they have fun. This is preparation and should not take over the whole trip of planning everything. But you have this information and I hope you found some of this information has been very helpful in preparing your child for their adventure, vacation, sleepover. And it also makes you feel comfortable discussing your child’s asthma needs with the chaperone or the adult in charge if you are not traveling with your child.
I thank you very much for your attention throughout this podcast. Have a good day. Thank you.
Thasia: Thank you for listening to Kids Breathe Better. This episode was brought to you by Allergy & Asthma Network in support of the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention technical package to control asthma and reduce emergency room visits. If this episode was helpful to you, please subscribe and leave a review. For more information, visit our website at AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org.