How to Travel With Asthma and Allergies

June 27, 2016

Purvi Parikh, M.D.

U.S. News & World Report

Dreaming of your summer vacation? Wondering how to keep asthma and allergies under control? Put some planning behind the dream.

Here's a timetable to follow:

Two Months Out

Schedule a checkup with your physician.

Review your symptoms – how often are they occurring? How well are you sleeping at night? Are you having trouble exercising? If your asthma isn't in control, talk about revising your treatment plan. The first step to being healthy on vacation is being healthy at home.

Discuss your travel plans and possible exposure to allergens, irritants or climate changes. Ask if there are steps you can take to prevent symptoms.

Ask the best way to contact the doctor if you need help while away. Can you email? What about telemedicine options?

Request prescription refills.

If you or your child use a nebulizer, either on a regular basis or during asthma flares, ask your doctor for a prescription for a small, battery-powered unit that's easy to carry. These are available through online allergy supply stores and some medical equipment stores.

Research hotels at your destination. Do they allow pets? What's the air conditioning like? Do they offer allergy-friendly rooms, with air cleaners and dust-mite-proof bedding? Book rooms away from pools and parking lots, to reduce exposure to chemicals and exhaust.

[See: 8 Surprising Facts About Asthma and Seasonal Allergies.]

One Month Out

Put your paperwork together – and scan it all onto your phone or mobile device, too.

Get a copy of your Asthma Action Plan or Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan – one for your suitcase, one to carry with you, more if you might need it for caregivers. Make sure it has your doctor's contact information.

List of all the medications you and your family members take – brand names, generic names and dosages, in case you need to replace them during your trip.

Review your health insurance information. Check the out-of-town coverage and consider travel insurance if necessary.

Consider using an app to keep track of your essential information on your tablet or phone. Asthma Storylines is one of many available.

Consider signing up with a telemedicine service that offers phone or video appointments. Register before you leave so everything is set up – it costs nothing until you use the service.

[See: 7 Lifestyle Tips to Manage Your Asthma.]

Two Weeks Out

Make sure you have refilled all your daily, quick relief and emergency medications and have backups and extras, especially if you are traveling abroad. If you need permission from your insurance company to fill prescriptions early, your pharmacist may be able to help.

Talk with your pharmacist about the best way to store medications during travel. Do any need to be refrigerated? Protected in Ziploc bags? Instructions for most medicines recommend storing them at room temperature (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit). Most medicines, including inhalers, can withstand short periods of time in heat or cold – and they do this more efficiently when they're fresh, rather than nearing their expiration date.

Make sure you've filled all your daily, quick relief and emergency medications and have back ups/extras, especially if you're traveling abroad.

Check and clean any medical equipment you use, such as a nebulizer, peak flow meter or holding chamber/spacer.

Research hospitals and pharmacies at your travel destination and along your route. Print out online maps showing their location and keep them with your medical papers; also store information on your phone or GPS device.

One Week Out

Plan how you intend to pack your medications and medical equipment so it can always be nearby. If flying, put all your medications in your carry-on luggage and keep them with you at your seat instead of the overhead bin.

Do you need a new backpack, fanny pack or purse to carry emergency meds like albuterol or epinephrine? Small travel pouches made to carry cash or passports may be suitable.

If flying with food allergies, contact the airline to ask about special accommodations such as early boarding to wipe down seats or flight-specific replacement of peanut snacks. Some information can be found on airline websites (print this out to show airport staff); other times you may have to call customer service.

If travelling by road, give your car a thorough cleaning.

[See: How to Survive Ragweed Allergy Season.]

Departure Day

Pack enough food and water to last in case of travel delays. You don't want to be stuck on an airplane runway or delayed train without your medicine or other supplies.

If flying with food allergies, arrive at the airport early and talk with gate crew about early boarding or other accommodation.

Double-check to make sure your medications are in carry-on luggage and easily accessible.

Wear comfy clothes; take along a good book, music, snacks and games for the kids. And most of all – enjoy your trip!

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