Summer is almost here, and its arrival brings opportunities for many people – including those who suffer with allergies and asthma — to plan vacations away from home.
A recent article titled “Allergies don’t take a vacation” in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology encourages those with allergies and asthma to consider their conditions and consult with their allergist before embarking on a vacation to ensure maximum good health and opportunities for enjoyment while away from home. Annals is the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
The article stressed that advance preparation for a vacation can ease the anxiety allergy and asthma patients sometimes face with the idea of being away from home and their regular care. Simple measures can make the vacation run more smoothly — like making sure prescriptions are up to date and filled so that you don’t run out while traveling. Consider bringing extra medications to use as needed for exacerbations of your allergic disease. It is also good to have your allergist’s contact information and research the location of pharmacies near to where you’ll be staying.
Those with hay fever or nasal allergies have different concerns than those with asthma or food allergies or eczema. Consider the following tips, depending on which allergic condition you suffer with:
Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (nasal and eye allergies)
- Consider a trip to the beach or the mountains, as those locales tend to host fewer allergens.
- If you have dog or cat allergies, look for a pet-free hotel.
- Bring your own dust mite covers for pillows if you’re not sure your hotel will supply them.
- Remember to bring your allergy medications and consider taking intranasal steroids before you leave.
- Try to travel in the early morning when air pollutants are low, or in the late evening when pollen counts are at their lowest. Keep car and hotel windows closed to decrease exposure to pollen.
- If you’re being treated with allergy immunotherapy shots, work with your allergist to minimize missed injections.
- Work with your allergist to make sure your asthma is controlled before you depart. If your asthma isn’t well controlled, talk to your allergist about steps you might need to take to regulate symptoms.
- Think about vaccinating against circulating respiratory infections (such as the flu), which can offer protection against virus-induced asthma flares.
- Review your inhaler medications with your allergist to make sure you understand the distinction between maintenance and rescue medications. You can simplify the regimen by switching to a single inhaler as maintenance and rescue therapy.
- Avoid activities that could cause an asthma flare, such as high-altitude exposure, strenuous exercise and scuba diving.
- Carry multiple epinephrine auto-injectors on your trip.
- Try to stay at a hotel with a kitchen, where you can talk to the staff who will be preparing your food to ensure they are aware of your food allergies.
- If you are traveling to a foreign country, translate your food allergens into the foreign language to communicate with restaurant staff more easily.
- Bring non-perishable food that is safe for you to eat.
- Know where the closest hospital is to where you are staying in case of an emergency.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Bring fragrance-free products needed for the trip such as laundry detergent, soap and moisturizer.
- Minimize exposure to environmental allergens that can trigger eczema.
- Choose activities that won’t cause excessive sweating and wear breathable fabrics.
- Pick a mineral sunscreen, which is less irritating to the skin.
- Rinse off as soon as possible after swimming to avoid skin irritation.
- Bathe daily to wash off potential allergens, preferably before bed.
For maximum fun on your summer vacation, keep the above tips in mind. Depending on the allergies or asthma experienced by your family members, you’ll want to carefully consider your vacation destination as well as mode of travel and planned activities — all of which can affect symptom onset. If you’re flying, bring all medications, including rescue medications, in readily available carry-on bags and make sure you can access them if there’s an emergency.
It’s not advisable to take a holiday from your allergy and asthma medications and management strategies. But advance planning can help you prepare for — and enjoy — your dream vacation.
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