Allergies & Asthma on Vacation

by Anne Patrick

Everyone looks forward to taking a vacation and getting away from it all, especially during the holiday season. But for people with allergies, the idea of leaving one’s controlled environment can be concerning. Those with environmental allergies and asthma may be challenged with many additional triggers in their vacation environment, such as dust mite-filled beds and carpets in hotels, guest homes and vacation properties, or wheeze-inspiring pollens and molds found in the great outdoors. For those with food allergies, traveling also presents unique challenges, as venturing into unknown restaurants where cross-contamination of foods with allergens could be life threatening.

Perhaps the best way to boost confidence and calm nerves is to research your trip thoroughly. Think ahead. Instead of trying to push worries aside, use them as a guide to prepare yourself for the allergy-invoking situations you may encounter while away from home. You already know how to manage your allergies – you do it every day. Those strategies that help you cope at home can also be useful when traveling.

Keep in mind that when traveling, the climate and season of your destination will dictate your specific allergen and irritant exposure. In tropical, damp climates, you may have increased exposure to allergens, such as dust mites, airborne molds and specific pollens. In cold, damp climates, you may be exposed to more house dust mites and indoor mold. Cold, frigid, dry air environments can also be an irritant for people with asthma. No matter the climate, asthmatics should be aware of and carry their Asthma Action Plan, recommended by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Asthma Education and Prevention Program.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles….many have seen this movie, but when you think about it, these modes of transportation are all possible sources of allergic triggers when traveling. The good news is there are some simple allergen avoidance measures that will get you off to a good start.

Air quality on planes can be a concern for the allergic or asthmatic individual. Because of the closed nature of an aircraft's circulation system, dry, re-circulated air can trigger sinus irritation and lead to exposure of airborne contaminants. By using a saline nasal spray once every hour to keep your nasal membranes moist, you will be more comfortable during and after your flight. U.S. flights are all non-smoking, but there are some International flights where smoking is still permitted. If you find yourself on such a flight, ask to be seated as far away from the smoking section as possible.

Whether it be your car, a bus or a train, the upholstery, carpeting and ventilation system in any vehicle can harbor dust mites, mold and pollen, which can trigger your allergic symptoms. You really can’t do much about a bus or train (except take your controller medication and have your rescue medication handy). However, when traveling by car, it may be helpful to turn on the air conditioning or heat with the windows open for at least ten minutes before embarking on your trip to help remove dust mite allergens and/ or mold that has accumulated in the system. Also, travelling with your windows up and using the air conditioning will avoid exposure if you are allergic to outdoor allergens such as pollens and molds.

Now that you’ve thought about your travels and how to avoid unnecessary triggers, what about your accommodation?

Some hotel chains are now trying to accommodate the allergy sufferer by offering “allergy proof” rooms. When making reservations, inquire about availability and ask specific questions to determine what environmental control measures the hotel has undertaken to make the room allergy free. You can also request a sunny room away from the pool to avoid any likelihood of mold exposure. If animal dander triggers your symptoms, ask for a room where pets have not been allowed. Always stay in a non-smoking room.

If you’re staying with family or friends, remind them of your triggers. Chances are they won’t be able to clear away all the allergens, but they can clean and vacuum thoroughly, especially in the room you’ll sleep in.

Vacations at the beach can be another enjoyable destination. If you are staying in a cottage, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and aired out before your arrival to reduce dust mite and mold concentrations. Lazy days on the beach also mean increased sun and water exposure, which can aggravate a skin condition called eczema. Protecting your skin with Vanicream sunscreen and using Allersearch IceBlock Sunburn Relief Gel or Vanicream non-irritating skin lotion can alleviate any potential skin damage as a result of overexposure. The Sampler Pack with 6 unique Vanicream and Free&Clear skin and hair care products is easy to toss in your handbag or overnight bag.

And lastly, there’s nothing better than enjoying good food on your vacation and, let’s face it, we all like to indulge once in a while. However, if you have food allergies, the same precautions you use at home will guide you to make safe decisions when traveling.

While allergies and asthma may slow you down, good planning ahead will minimize your symptoms so that you can enjoy the vacation you so justly deserve!