Travelling with Asthma

November 12, 2012

Travelling with Asthma

Asthma can make it difficult to breathe because it affects the airways. It can start when a person with asthma comes into contact with an ‘asthma trigger’. This causes their airways to tighten and the lining of the airways becomes inflamed and starts to swell. When a person suffers from narrower and irritated airways, causing shortness of breath they are said to be asthmatic.

However asthma does not have to stop you living a normal life and that includes travelling and having holidays. If you are travelling then preparation is crucial. To address most things will easily take a month, so allow time. Do not go without your medication, ensure that travel insurance does not exclude known conditions and try to find out if you will be subjected to any known triggers. It is also prudent to find out what standard of medical facilities will be nearby and do you know the method to contact them. Some countries do not have an ambulance service, you must contact the local hospital, with other countries you might even have to hail a taxi so you will need money too. Many providers of health insurance are happy to provide cover to asthma sufferers but will ask for a letter from the doctor before providing cover.

It is also wise to ensure that you have a print-out of your usual prescriptions. This allows you to replenish your drugs should anything untoward happen such as losing them or your bag being stolen and it will be important if you do need to go to see a doctor.

Before you go ensure that you have enough of your medications to last the period of your holiday, be careful and add a bit to allow for unforeseen circumstances. This will include spare inhalers. Other points to consider are; do you need a health check or immunisations, are there any travel issues, and what about travel insurance and do you know of any triggers that may affect you on your trip.

Your doctor or practice nurse can ensure that there are no health issues before travel and immunisation is up to date. If you have to be vaccinated then tell the nurse if you have used high-dose oral steroids recently. This is the time to discuss your personal asthma action plan. Your action plan is a tool which allows you to recognise symptoms at an early stage to ensure that treatment occurs quickly, lessening the seriousness of the attack. If you have mild asthma this advice is important but if you have severe asthma it is crucial that you prepare well.

Most people have at least a suspicion of some of the asthma triggers which affect them. Be aware of things as you travel. Do not go near smoking areas in airports, ensure that your hotel room is non smoking and realise that not every country is as strict about smoking in bars and restaurants as the UK.

Some people find animal fur or feathers a problem. Check with the hotel, are the pillows synthetic or feathers? It’s easy enough to deal with if you know beforehand.

Know your limits! Do not try to do sports or activities which you would not do at home. Ask yourself what would happen if I had an asthma attack whilst doing that activity. A good example could be scuba diving.

Because you will be travelling with very little control of the environment around you it is very important that you have taken all of your prescribed drugs before travel. This ensures that the asthma is fully controlled, giving the most protection from exposure to allergens which may be present.

Do not carry any bottles of medicine larger than 100ml in your hand baggage unless you have cleared it first with the airline and airport. You will almost certainly have to have a letter from your doctor too. It’s much easier, if you do need more medicine to have a small bottle for the journey and put the larger bottle in your suitcase. Whenever possible it is best to keep your medication with you but when security is the over riding concern you will not be permitted to take it with you. Keep all medicines in their original containers at all times.

Depending upon the severity of your condition, for example if you are breathless while sitting at rest, the airline may have to evaluate your state before allowing you on board their aircraft.


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