6 Travel Tips for Asthma Patients

Now that fall is in full gear, patients will soon start traveling to see loved ones during the holiday season.

Now that fall is in full gear, patients will soon start traveling to see loved ones during the holiday season.

But travel can be problematic for patients with asthma as they adjust to new environments with varying temperatures and potential triggers. This should not stop them from traveling, though.

“The goal of good asthma care is to be symptom-free and fully active—including being able to travel,” said Elizabeth Herman, MD, MPh, of the National Asthma Control Program at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a podcast.

Dr. Herman and the American Lung Association (ALA) offer the following travel tips for patients with asthma:

1. Pack an asthma travel kit.

Pharmacists can advise patients to make sure that they have their controller and rescue medications required for the duration of their trip, plus an updated asthma action plan, and any spacers or asthma-related devices.

Patients traveling by plane should pack these materials in their carry-on bag, Dr. Herman noted.

2. Stay up-to-date on immunizations and avoid infections.

Pharmacists can remind asthma patients to get an annual flu vaccine, as well as take preventive measures against respiratory infections, like washing their hands frequently.

3. Review asthma triggers.

Pharmacists can help patients review asthma triggers and strategize ways to avoid them.

The most common triggers include tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroaches, pets, mold, and smoke from burning wood, according to the CDC.

Dr. Herman suggested advising patients to seek out a smoke-free hotel room or a hotel that does not allow smoking at all.

For patients with pollen sensitivity, she suggested that patients avoid destinations during peak pollen season. For those with dust mite triggers, patients should remember to pack dust-impermeable mattress and pillow covers for the trip.

Patients visiting someone else’s home can ask ahead of time about triggers like pets and smoke. If these triggers exist, then patients can plan for alternative accommodations, Dr. Herman noted.

4. Recognize asthma symptoms.

Patients should be aware of asthma symptoms and monitor them if they seem to be getting worse, Dr. Herman emphasized. Asthma attacks may include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and tightness or pain in the chest.

In case symptoms do worsen, it may be helpful to identify a clinician in the area where the patient will be visiting.

Pharmacists can also suggest that patients tell their travel companions about what they can do to help if symptoms occur. This can help patients avoid a trip to the emergency room.

Fewer than 7 in 10 adults are taught how to recognize asthma symptoms, according to the CDC.

5. Prepare for temperature changes.

Some patients with asthma may experience worsening symptoms because of extreme changes in temperature, according to the ALA. Because of this, the ALA advises that patients in hot or humid climates should try to stay indoors, while patients in extremely cold areas should bundle up and cover their nose and mouth, especially if they are above 9000 feet, as the air becomes colder and dryer.

6. Consider skipping the pool.

Chlorine and other pool chemicals may make asthma symptoms worse, so patients should consider avoiding the pool if the area is not well ventilated or the water has a strong chemical smell, the ALA recommends.