Living with allergies at home is hard enough. But traveling with allergies raises a whole new set of challenges in getting relief for allergies. Whether you travel every week for business or just once a year to visit the grandparents, it’s important to head out prepared. Traveling with allergies doesn’t have to be torture!
Allergy Sufferers: Plan Ahead for Travel
Getting relief from your allergies while you’re on the road starts before you take a step out the door. First, think about your destination. What allergens and irritants are common where you’re going right now?
Plan your packing with allergies in mind.
- Pack all the medications you’ll need in your purse or carry-on bag -- something you’ll have at hand in the car, in your train seat, or on the flight. Bring a day’s worth of extra doses just in case you’re delayed.
- Keep medications in their original packaging to avoid running afoul of the Transportation Security Administration if you’re flying. You should be allowed to check all types of medication through the security checkpoint. If it’s in three-ounce or smaller quantities, you can put it in a clear quart-sized bag as you do with shampoo and perfume -- but give the meds their own bag, separate from cosmetics and other liquids. If your liquid or gel medications are in larger quantities, put them in a separate bag and declare them separately to the screener.
- 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’re really expecting to encounter some dust mite problems while away, you can even fold up and pack your mattress cover, but that will take up more space.
- If you have food allergies, pack acceptable snacks in your carry-on so you won’t have to take a chance on airline food or the options available in train stations, rest stops and airports.
Allergies on the Road and in the Air
No matter what form of transportation you take to get to your destination, it’s impossible to avoid allergens. But a few easy steps can keep your exposure to a minimum.
In the car:
Travel during low-traffic periods, like early morning and late evening. Not only will you avoid the higher levels of air pollution caused by idling vehicles as traffic slows to a crawl, you’ll spend less time on the road!
Avoid driving with the windows down; use the air conditioner instead. Be sure to use the “recirculation” setting rather than the outdoor vent setting, and try turning on the A/C for about 10 minutes before you set out. That can help remove dust mites and mold from the upholstery.
“Most newer models of cars have cabin air cleaners, meaning that the air in the passenger compartment is recirculated through some sort of filter,” says James L. Sublett, MD, an allergist in Louisville, Ky. “These should be changed regularly, when the oil is changed. Don’t try to save money by not doing that, because they can really improve the air quality in the car.”
On the plane or train:
The air in planes is particularly dry, so be sure your carry-on includes saline nasal spray. “Use it once an hour to keep nasal passages moist,” recommends Linda Ford, MD, an allergist with the Asthma and Allergy Center in Papillion, Neb.
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 from the smoking section back toward it.
Look for Allergy-Friendly Hotels
More and more hotels are advertising themselves as offering asthma- and allergy-friendly rooms; ask your hotel if it offers such accommodations. These might include pillow and mattress covers and hypoallergenic linens.
At a minimum you should seek out a hotel that is entirely smoke-free. Hotels that permit smoking, but have “nonsmoking rooms” often do not strictly enforce this policy, and it’s easy to tell that 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,” says Sublett. If you are given a room that smells of smoke, ask to be moved immediately.
Other accommodation requests:
- “If you have mold allergies, ask for a sunny, dry room away from the pool,” Ford says.
- Ask about the hotel’s pet policy. Hotels cannot bar service animals, but if you have dander allergies, you probably don’t want to be staying in a hotel that advertises itself as pet-friendly or offers cats to borrow for the night!
- If you’ll be staying in a rental home, inquire about how thoroughly the location is cleaned between guests.
If you have severe allergies or asthma, take the time to visit your allergist prior to traveling to discuss your plans. Make sure you’ve taken all the precautions necessary to make sure your trip will be as enjoyable as possible.