Tuesdays are Your Turn – Asthma Travel Tips

With all these trip-planning posts lately, the logical next step is a matching reader response:

What’s your best tip for good vacation breathing?


On road trips, I always, always bring my daughter’s pillow in its allergen-free cover to protect against her dust mite trigger. Some hotels offer hypoallergenic rooms for a price, but I’ve never stayed in one. Lots of places keep allergen-free pillows and/or bedding for asthma travelers, too, but I don’t want to rely on the assumption they’ll have any available. Packing my daughter’s pillow ensures her full night’s sleep and my peace of mind.

I like today’s question because it’s timely and seasonal, but also because it lets me include this blurry photo, which is one of my favorites nevertheless:

That’s the Sidekick, packed and ready to go “exploring” in her Florida grandmother’s front yard about 5 years ago. For the adventure, you can see she’s packed an old Matchbox car-carrying case.

And a stuffed baby chicken.


20 responses to “Tuesdays are Your Turn – Asthma Travel Tips”

  1. Sara C. says:

    I always make sure to have full inhalers. If we are flying, I have a written prescription from the pulmonologist for the nebulizer. If we are traveling by car, we bring pillows…by plane, we don’t…but I DO pack pillow cases.

    I always ask the pulmonologist which hospital he recomends. Having had to go to the ER in Orlando, and needing to find a walk in clinic on Key West, knowing which one MY daughter’s doctor recommends is helpful. I also have a map already printed out, from where we are staying to the hospital, also.

    I am looking forward to seeing what other people say.

  2. Sarah says:

    Best asthma tip depends on how you’re travelling. If by air: Pack all your meds in your carry-on! I’ve had too many disasters with lost luggage or damaged luggage to take the risk of putting my ticket to good health in the hands of airport baggage handlers.

    All other times: make sure you have a letter of introduction from your doctor (if necessary, which you and your doctor can talk about), your doctor’s contact information and a current, original prescription of all your med regime (even if your doctor doesn’t have prescribing priviledges where you’re travelling!), just in case your meds get lost/stolen/whatever, or you need to go to the ER or Urgent Care while you’re on the trip. It saved me once when I was a kid and my luggage was lost. We went to a local urgent care center, and since my parents had my doctor’s contact info and an original prescription, they were able to get a prescription for my full med regime, which they then filled at a local pharmacy. Crisis averted.

  3. Amy says:

    I don’t like to fill up reader response Tuesdays with my own comments too much, but here’s another good tip:

    Don’t just ask for a nonsmoking room. Specify you want a room that’s never been smoked in, and explain you’re traveling with an asthmatic child who’s extremely susceptible. Hotels/motels don’t want your child to have a problem – and the bad PR that would accompany it – any more than you do.

  4. Sarah says:

    ^ Good one, Amy! I remember staying at a hotel after flying home from a long trip once, and my parents asked for a “non-smoking” room. This particular hotel had just converted some of its rooms to non-smoking, except that they hadn’t changed the carpets, mats, wallpaper, mattresses, or pillows, and the blankets were still washed with the smoking rooms’ blankets. The walls were stained yellow from how much this room had been smoked in and it reeked of stale cigarette smoke. I was up all night coughing (and I do mean “up all night coughing”, as in coughing so much that I couldn’t sleep even though I desperately wanted to, and worse, my coughing was keeping everyone else up so I felt doubley miserable, especially since my sister wasn’t, and isn’t, the most sensitive sister in the world when it comes to my asthma and she made her displeasure with my coughing known. Loudly. For some reason, she’s always thought that I cough and feel miserable because I want to or that I do it to annoy her or something. I don’t know) and so my parents checked out at three in the morning hoping we’d all be able to get some sleep after the five hour drive home!

  5. Angela says:

    We take the pack, a bag that has her neb, liquid albuterol, benedryl, and a bottle of steroids. We add to it her zyrtec, singulair, advair, and flonase. (yes our poor kid is on a craptastic amount of meds every day). I bring the inhaler and chamber for when we are away from an outlet. I bring her own pillow and sleeping bag so that she has a ‘safe’ sleep space. I dose her up on allergy meds whenever we are away from our familiar home. That includes going to grandma’s house. I never know when she will trigger. Her recent allergy testing shows a severe cat allergy, dust allergy, arizona cyprus, and all junipers. It’s the dessert, Juniper is everywhere (poor girl won’t be having a gin and tonic when she grows up either). Anyway, I bring it all. Can’t have too much, and trying to search all that out in a new city or (can you imagine?) while camping is not my idea of a good time.

  6. MC says:

    This is a topic I’ve been wondering about some recently, thanks for bringing it up Amy.
    I don’t have that much experience in the matter (so thanks to everyone for their comments and input! I really appreciate it!), but I have learned from school trips with the Sign Language department at uni this semester that it’s not just important to bring the meds with you, but to have them within accessible reach. When your backpack that contains half your meds is buried under a pile of luggage in the school van, it’s really of not much help.
    And I can’t stress enough the importance already mentioned above on putting ALL your meds in your carry-on luggage when flying. My family has had checked luggage lost in the tiniest of airports, and luggage that somehow didn’t make it onto the plane we were on… more than once. Also in regards to planes, I’d say keep any meds you might need during flight under the seat in front of you, not in the overhead bin. There are times when they won’t let you get up from your seat at all, or at least don’t want you up (take-off, landing, turbulence, etc.). And several years ago, ALL flights in and out of DC you were not allowed to get up in the 30 minutes before landing in DC or 30 minutes after take-off from DC.

  7. kerri says:

    I have a bunch of posts on this subject, but here are my basics:

    -Pack doubles of all my medications [FULL] if travelling by air (one in my carry-on, one in my suitcase), labelled. You know, just in case. [This tip gets credit to Steve]

    -I keep prednisone on hand when travelling. My doctor doesn’t want me starting it by myself, but I DO know when I need it. If I’m way far away from home, what is she going to do about it?

    -I check the weather wherever i’m travelling ahead of time for humidity and rain information. In the case of my trip to Orlando in February, I had been yellow zoning, but returned to the green before leaving, BUT I kept my treatment stepped up the entire time I was there to minimize chances of flaring.

    -Keep a rescue inhaler in your pocket at ALL TIMES. Not in your bag. This is my Airplanes and Universal with Asthma tip. On planes, like MC said, there are times where your bag may not be accessible (mine’s always under the seat, because I am four at heart and need things to entertain me while flying) to get your medication, and amusement parks have random rides where you HAVE to chuck your junk in a locker, and seriously, if you’re hyped up (like me) you’re not thinking about grabbing your inhaler from your backpack when you’re about to get on Men in Black. (EPIC, btw.)

    -Just cause you’re outta routine doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep up your medication schedule! Adjust it as much as possible to fit your travel plans, but don’t forget about it! Pre-medicate for the stale cabin air and pressure changes if you need to, as well as whatever else you need to premedicate for along the way.

    -I’ve never done it, but I’m sure you can request the housekeeping staff not to use scented cleaners in your room.

    -Most of all . . . have fun! ;D If I think of any more, I’ll be sure to add them.

  8. Danielle says:

    Oooh I have experience in this department. I don’t travel a whole bunch, but I’ve visited a couple foreign ERs in my time!

    If you’re not travelling with your family, then DO take the time and effort to explain your meds, triggers, emergency procedures and ESPECIALLY attack warning signs.

    Carry a letter that you can easily hand off to a physician or paramedic, and give an extra copy to those in your travelling party. Consider a medical ID bracelet if you travel a lot and if your condition warrants it.

    At my doctor’s suggestion, I step up my maintenance medication when I’m away from home, seeing as I seem to discover a new trigger everytime I go on a trip! You just never know what’s going to be in the air in a new environment. Might want to go over this one with your own doctor though.

    Do a mental check (and a little research) on the possible triggers in the environment of the place you’re travelling to. Play it safe and assume that new triggers/allergens WILL cause a problem for you. (But hope for the best!)

    Bring extra meds, obviously.

    Learn how to say “asthma” in the language of the place you’re travelling to, at the very least!

  9. Sarah says:

    ^ I’d like to re-emphasize the importance of keeping your inhaler in your pocket while on the plane, not in your bag! I had a blonde moment in May when I was flying to Hamilton, and I started flaring really badly while I was on the plane (like, I used 10 puffs of inhaler on a two hour flight, all in the last hour – I was worried I was going to have to ask a flight attendant if there was a doctor on board). Of course it happened in turbulence, and of course, my inhaler was in the overhead bin! I had to ask a flight attendant to get my bag for me since I was very short of breath.

    … On a related note, if you’re travelling, let your airline know if you have allergies/sensitivities, and don’t be shy about asking to be moved to a different seat if the person across the aisle has a perfume that’s sending your lungs into a tizzzy!

  10. Allison says:

    Wow, all great advice. I’m about to send my son to Orlando with his grandparents for a week. He usually doesn’t flare in the summer, and he’s been so great lately. But he also usually doesn’t go to Florida in the summer. I’ll definitely send him with his own pillow (we always bring it on the plane too) and full inhalers (Advair and Ventolin), a fresh pack of claritin, and a bottle of prednisone just in case. I wasn’t planning on sending his nebulizer, but maybe…

    I was going to print out a card with full instructions on how to administer all his drugs and send that along. Good advice to include doc contact info and prescription info.

    Good advice to keep your inhaler in your pocket at all times, but how do you stuff the aerochamber in there too :) .

    This will be the first time he’s traveled without me. I’m trying not to think about it too much, to be honest.

    And we will all be traveling to China in August or September to pick up our new kiddo. September is his bad month, so I’m a bit more worried about that — and the 14 hour flight.

  11. Sarah says:

    Allison: I buy sweaters with inside pockets, which are typically long and large enough to fit my Aerochamber, inhaler, and peak flow meter. If I end up getting an epi-pen (which seems likely as I’ve had a really bad reaction to hay once), there will even be room for that.

  12. Amy says:

    Sarah–I learned this one the hard way, too. We had to get our room changed once b/c I know if I can smell it, she’ll have problems. And shame on your sister! The Sidekick is very understanding, but she’s only 8. I hope she stays this way.

    Angela–No, I don’t even want to think about that.

    MC–Yes, inhalers/meds on your actual person or at least nearby. Good one.

    Kerri–(And Steve, I guess) I like the double meds trick, and checking weather/air quality ahead of time is important, too.

    Danielle–Learning how to say “asthma” in other languages – that’s a fantastic idea. I’ve never read that tip anywhere before. Thank you!

    Allison–So that’s why you’re going to China. Congratulations! I’m excited for your family. I’m sure your son will do great on his trip and have lots of fun. If it helps, my daughter never once had major flares in June when we lived in Florida. The humidity’s always high year-round, pretty much, but it doesn’t start getting really bad until late July & August.

  13. Sarah says:

    Amy – My sister and father are why I say that sometimes having a mild asthmatic relative is worse than having a nonasthmatic relative… My sister’s mild intermittent, my dad is mild persistent. I can’t remember the last time either of them were uncontrolled. Because of that, both of them believe that all asthma is like their’s unless the person needs to go to the ER, and if the person is uncontrolled, it’s because they’re not taking their meds properly. Hence, both of them tend to assume that my flares are my fault, and so they’re not very sympathetic. Of course, in my sister’s case, I think that’s more the excuse she uses to be unsympathetic, since the above incident happened when I was seven and she was six.

  14. SnjMom says:

    We just went on vacation and noticed how hard it can be with so many people smoking. My DD is very bothered by cigarette smoke. Because of people smoking, we couldnt eat outside at restaurants, coudn’t enjoy the outside pool at the hotel, and had to walk out of the way just to avoid people smoking on the streets. My DD said “I wish there was a vacation spot we could go to that people couldn’t smoke at all.” Anyone know a good place?

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