With summer finally here many of us are making plans for a trip to the beach, the mountains or maybe some other exotic locale. Living with allergies at home can be hard enough, but traveling with allergies raises a completely new set of challenges. So as you begin to make your plans, it’s important to head out well prepared. Traveling with allergies doesn’t have to be torture!
Choosing the right vacation destination can make a big difference depending on whether you are most bothered by pollens, dust mites or molds. Pollen counts are usually lower on the coast so consider the beach, or even a cruise, if pollen is your problem. Dust mites don’t like elevations above 2,500 feet so a trip to the mountains could be your best bet. Low temperatures will kill mold so head for the snow and mountains to avoid this allergy irritant too.
Keeping your allergies under control while you’re on the road needs to start before you even take a step out the door. Think about your destination. Pollen seasons can vary across the country and the world. What allergens and irritants are common where you’re going? You can usually find a local weather channel for your destination online to check the current pollen and mold counts to help with your planning.
You should be allowed to check all types of allergy medication through security, but try to keep your medications in their original packaging to save trouble with the Transportation Security Administration. Put liquid or gel medications in three-ounce or smaller quantities and pack them in a separate clear, quart-sized bag just like the ones you use for shampoo, perfume or colognes.
Whether you are traveling by plane, train or automobile, make sure you pack at least three days of allergy medications in your purse or carry-on bag so they can be kept with you at all times. And bring an extra day’s worth of each medication just in case you’re delayed when you return home.
It can be great to get away from it all, but don’t forget about taking your medications! If you need to take your medications on a schedule, set and alarm on your phone or in your calendar.
If you use dust-proof, zippered pillow covers at home, pack one for the pillow at your destination. It takes up little to no space in your suitcase. If you will be taking a longer trip, don’t forget to pack any hypo-allergenic laundry detergents or fabric softeners that you may need.
The air that is circulated in airplanes is particularly dry, so be sure to stay well hydrated and have a saline nasal spray or gel in your carry-on bag. Use it once an hour to keep nasal passages moist. Saline sprays and gels are both available without a prescription.
All U.S. domestic flights, and most flights between the U.S. and international destinations, are smoke-free, but some airlines in other countries still allow smoking. If you’re on a flight where smoking is permitted, ask to be seated as far as possible from the smoking section, and adjust your air blower so that it blows back toward the smoking section to keep as much smoke away from you as possible.
More and more hotels are advertising themselves as offering asthma and/or allergy-friendly rooms. Ask if your hotel offers such accommodations. These might include things such as pillow and mattress covers or hypoallergenic linens. At a minimum, you should seek out a hotel that is entirely smoke-free. Hotels that do permit smoking will have “non-smoking rooms” but very often they do not strictly enforce this policy. It’s easy to tell if previous guests have smoked in the room. Even if you’re in a smoke-free room, if it’s right above a smoking floor, you’ll end up getting exposure to the smoke that’s below you. If you are given a room that smells of smoke, ask to be moved immediately. If you have mold allergies, ask for a sunny, dry room away from the pool. Ask about the hotel’s pet policy. Hotels cannot bar service animals, but if you have animal dander allergies, you probably don’t want to be staying in a hotel that advertises itself as pet-friendly!
Make sure you remember to take extra care when eating out on vacation. It can be exciting to dive into the local culture and try new things, but unfamiliar foods can create problems. If you have food allergies, pack your own snacks in your carry-on and avoid taking chances on airline food or with the options available in airports, rest stops or train stations. Make sure you have information about your allergies to discuss with the restaurant staff. And have the information in the local language if you are traveling in a foreign country. If you have serious food allergies, such as shellfish or peanut allergy, be sure to carry your emergency epinephrine injector (EpiPen) with you at all times. Consider wearing medical ID jewelry if you have a life-threatening allergy.
So with just a little extra time and thought, you can avoid an allergy disaster and make this Spring Break trip one to remember…for all the right reasons!