6 Ways you can make traveling with asthma safer

7 Min Read

If you have been diagnosed with asthma you should still be able to safely enjoy traveling just like everyone else.

However, there are certain precautions you may want to think about before you take your trip.

Read on to find out more about what you should be doing in the build-up to your holiday and whilst you are away.

Plan ahead

If you want to feel confident that all is in order for your holiday then you should try and plan as much in advance as possible.

Around four to six weeks prior to your departure date you might want to start thinking about what you need to prepare before you go.

  • Doctor’s appointment

It is a good idea to arrange an appointment with your doctor, specialist, or asthma nurse prior to travel.

This gives them the opportunity to check that your personal asthma action plan is still effective, that you are using your medications correctly, and also to provide any practical advice while you are away.

  • Travel vaccinations

Depending on the country you are visiting you may be required or advised to receive extra immunizations to protect you from contracting diseases whilst you are away.

Your doctor should be able to advise you on which vaccinations are applicable. Your asthma medications should not interfere with the vaccines unless you have an allergy to an ingredient.

  • Asthma triggers

What are yours? Do you know whether they could be present at your destination?

Depending on the types of triggers you have and the destination you are going to, you might want to prepare yourself accordingly.

A common trigger to think about is the weather.

Will there be a change in temperature or humidity when you arrive at your destination? Does your destination have a problem with air pollution? Or are you traveling at a time of year when pollen levels might be high?

Stick to your treatment plan

It is just as important to adhere to your asthma action plan whilst you are on holiday, as it is when you are at home.

This includes taking your medication as prescribed by your doctor in order to reduce your chances of having an asthma attack.

You should ensure that you have sufficient medication to cover the time you are away as well as extra in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

It can also be useful to have extra copies of your prescription details printed out should you lose your inhalers or need any medical attention whilst you are away.

Keep your preventer inhaler with you at all times and carry a spare in your hand luggage, so that you will not be left without your medication should your hold luggage go missing.

Your inhalers will need to be placed into a clear plastic bag in order to adhere to current hand luggage restrictions. It is possible to carry essential medicines in quantities of more than 100ml but you will need to obtain prior permission from the airport and airline as well as a doctor’s letter.

Do your research

Before you leave for your travels you should try and find out more about the facilities available should you require emergency treatment.

Is there a local ambulance service? Where is the closest doctor or hospital? Keep the results of your research with you whilst you travel along with details of your UK doctor.

Make any travel companions aware of the details and where you have kept the information.

Get insurance

You should take out a travel insurance policy for the time that you are away.

You should declare your asthma condition when applying for the policy. Some insurance companies ask those living with chronic illnesses to obtain permission to travel from their doctor.

  • EHIC 

UK residents can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Application is free of charge and can be carried out online, via post, or by phone.

You should take the card with you whenever you travel within Europe, as it entitles you to free or reduced-rate healthcare.

The card does not cover everything and should be obtained in addition to travel insurance.

Prepare for air travel

Most people with asthma can travel by airplane without any problems.

However, some severe asthmatics may notice exacerbated symptoms caused by the cabin air pressure and reduced oxygen levels. Depending on the severity of your condition your doctor may want to carry out some tests to assess your suitability for air travel.

You should speak to your GP before you plan to fly so that they can offer helpful advice.

Choose the right activities

If you have well-managed asthma symptoms then you should be able to take part in any form of activity or exercise.

That being said you should remember that factors such as a change in temperature or altitude may play a part in your symptoms whilst you’re in a new place.  

Scuba diving, mountaineering, and skiing are three popular holiday activities that all present similar triggers (namely, an extreme change in air temperature and air pressure, and stress).

If your asthma is exacerbated by any of these conditions then you may want to consult your doctor before partaking in the above activities.

Regulations surrounding asthmatics and scuba diving vary from country to country so you may want to research them before setting off.

Just because you have asthma doesn’t mean you should limit your expectations when it comes to going away. Ticking the above off your to-do list will help you to have a healthy and memorable time on holiday.

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Tom Perry, M.D., attended Tulane University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. degree in Parasitology. He received his M.D. degree in 1983 from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where he gained extensive research experience, including studies conducted through the National Institutes of Health.