Traveling and Asthma

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Traveling and Asthma

Part of the fun of traveling is being in a completely different place. But if you have asthma, a new environment can seem less fun. There's always the worry that something unexpected may cause an asthma flare-up. Luckily, some simple preparation can help you be ready.

Before You Go

Make sure your asthma is well controlled. If your asthma has been flaring up, check with your doctor before you go on your trip. He or she may need to adjust your medicine or ask you to come in for a visit.

When packing, remember all medicine you're taking for your asthma, including quick-relief and long-term control medicines. Keep all medicines in your carry-on bags. It's also a good idea to pack a little extra medicine than you think you might need. That way, you don't run out if something unexpected comes up.

If you're leaving the country, get a letter from your doctor that describes your asthma and your medicines. This can help you with airport security or customs.

It's also a good idea to know the generic names of your medicines. These are the chemical names of the medicine, not the brand name the drug company has given it. If you need to get a refill in another country, the medicine might have a different brand name. Your pharmacist or doctor can give you the generic names of the medicines you take.

Be sure to take a copy of your asthma action plan, your health insurance card, and your doctor's phone number. If you use a peak flow meter, pack it too.

Buses, Trains, and Cars

Trains, buses, and even your family car might have dust mites and mold trapped in the seats, carpets, or ventilation system.

  • If you're traveling by bus, train, or other public transport, make sure you've taken your long-term control medicine and you have your quick-relief inhaler handy.
  • If you're traveling by car, ask the driver to run the air conditioner or heater with the windows open for at least 10 minutes before you get into the car. If pollen or air pollution trigger your asthma and counts are high, travel with the windows closed and the air conditioner on.

Planes

Smoking is banned on all commercial U.S. airlines. It is also banned on foreign airline flights into and out of the United States.

But smoking is still permitted by law on charter flights. If you are on a charter flight, find out about their smoking policy. Ask to be seated in the non-smoking section.

The air on planes is very dry. This can trigger an asthma flare-up. Make sure you have your quick-relief inhaler handy and try to drink a lot of water.

Home Away From Home

If you're staying in a hotel, you may find that something in the room triggers your asthma. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Ask for a sunny, dry room away from the hotel pool.
  • If animal allergens trigger your asthma, ask for a room that has never had pets in it.
  • Always ask for a nonsmoking room. Tell the hotel you have asthma and cannot stay in a smoking room.
  • Bring your own blanket and pillow and blanket if you can.

If you're staying with family or friends, tell them in advance about your triggers. They won't be able to clear away all dust mites or mold, but they can dust and vacuum carefully, especially in the room you'll sleep in. You also can ask them to avoid using scented candles, potpourri, or aerosol products, if those bother you.

Just like at home, you'll want to avoid smoke. Ask anyone who smokes to step outside, especially if you're sharing a room. Wood fires in the fireplace or woodstove also could be a problem for you.

Traveling on Your Own

Carry a copy of your asthma action plan. That way, people who are traveling with you (or the people you stay with) can help if you have breathing trouble.

If you don't have a copy of your plan, let the people you travel and stay with know:

  • the names and doses of medicines you take
  • the number where your parents can be reached
  • how to get in touch with your doctor if there's an emergency

Without your parents along, you will have more responsibility for managing your asthma. Keep your triggers in mind and take steps to avoid them.

If pollen bothers you, find out what the readings are on days you'll be outdoors. If air pollution is a trigger for you, keep that in mind when you visit a smoggy city. You can check air quality anywhere in the United States by visiting the AIRnow website.

If you're planning to take part in any new activities while you're away, talk to your doctor about them before you leave. And whatever you do, make sure your quick-relief medicine is nearby in case you need it.

When you travel, you want to think as little as possible about your asthma so you can have fun. The best way to do this is to plan ahead. Keep medicines with you so you don't panic if you do have a flare-up. If you ignore your asthma completely, there's a chance you could end up at the hospital. And that's no way to enjoy a vacation.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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