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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tips for the challenge of traveling with asthma

There is nothing worse than traveling with asthma. I'm telling you, I've had just about every possible miserable experience a person with asthma can go through. And, for that reason, I think I am more than qualified to create a top 11 list of tips for traveling with asthma.

Before I ever had an inhaler, sometime pre-1980, my mom forgot to take my Alupent Syrup, and as soon as I got to the hotel my asthma hit. Since it wasn't possible to transfer prescriptions to distant pharmacies back then, my parents went to the drug store and gave me cough drops to suck on. I remember almost choking that night.

When I was 11 or 12 (1980-81) my parents gave me the responsibility for my own asthma medicines. Well, after we traveled 10 hours and got to the hotel, I realized my inhaler was empty.

Twice when I was 14 I visited relatives, only to learn I was allergic to something in their homes. Since back then asthmatics were not allowed to take antihistamines (at least according to my doctor), I ended up in the ER of some out-of-state hospital.

Most people if they forget to take their pillows they simply use what is available in the hotel room. When I did that when I was kid with hardluck asthma I ended up ghasping for air all night long. It's possible that's the same night I forgot my Theophylin pills.

When I was older I visited my brother's home with the intent on partying with my brother and some friends, only I ended up with a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezes because I was allergic to something in his house.

Oh, and I will never forget when mom and dad got caught up in a major blizzard on the way back to Michigan from Florida and we had to spend the night in some low-class hotel. The room we stayed in was a smoking room, and my asthma was awful that night.

So I can give you some great asthma/allergy traveling tips. I am not a doctor. Yet instead of my advice coming from an expert sitting in an office, my tips come right from things I personally experienced as an asthmatic with terrible allergies.

So, to find out what my tips are, click here and I will morph you over to my asthma blog where you can read, "11 tips for traveling with Asthma".

11 Tips For Traveling With Asthma
by Rick Frea Wednesday, May 20, 2009

So your job has you weary eyed and ready for a vacation. You decide to pack your bags and travel to... where? It doesn't matter, because wherever you go, when you have asthma you have no choice but to plan ahead.

That in mind, I have compiled 11 tips for traveling with asthma I learned from personal experience. Here goes:

1. Don't forget your allergies: If you're like me, you've spent the night at a family member's home (or a friend's) only to develop a sinus headache, runny nose, watery eyes and wheezes. You learned the hard way you were allergic to something in your relative's home.

The best solution here is to avoid places you are allergic to. Hotels are always an option (see below). However, if avoidance isn't posible, you can try taking over the counter
antihistamines. Or, if that doesn't work, you can talk to your doctor about leukotriene blockers like Singulair, if you are not taking it already.

2. Don't forget your Rescue Medicine: Listen, I don't care if you haven't used your
rescue inhaler in over a year, if you go on vacation take it with you -- just in case. No excuses!

If you have a nebulizer, bring it with you too. And don't forget the
solvents that go with it. They won't do you any good if they are 400 miles away.

In the ER we RTs see lots of asthmatic vacationers, most of them would not have needed our services had they simply remembered their rescue medicine.

3. Make sure your meds are not expired: Before you leave, check the dates on all your medicine. If it's been in the medicine cabinet for more than a year, consider it expired. This is especially true of rescue inhalers like Ventolin. The last thing you need on a vacation is a rescue inhaler that has no potency.

4. Don't forget your Preventative meds: The last thing you want is to travel miles from home only to realize you forgot your
Advair or Symbicort. Sure you might be fine a few days, but eventually your asthma may show it's ugly head without this medicine in your system as I describe in this post.

5. Pharmacies can be your saving grace: I used to get my prescriptions filled at Rite Aid because they are located in many vacation spots. I could easily have my prescription transferred to where I was staying. You can take advantage of this too in case you are forgetful. Walgreens, Walmart, K-Mart and other pharmacies offer similar programs.

However, most pharmacies are more than happy to help you out by transferring your meds to their store.

6. Keep a list of meds and a letter from your doc: Just in case you have to make a pit stop in an ER. The letter should state that you have asthma and the list of your currently prescribed medicines. It also helps to list what has worked best for you in the past.

7. Keep your meds with you at all times: I like to carry mine in the same bag I keep bathroom essentials in. Try keeping them in your carry-on bag. That way if my luggage gets lost, I still have these essential supplies on hand.

8. Avoid smoke-filled restaurants and bars: If you have to eat at a restaurant that has a smoking section, ask to be seated far from the nearest smoking table as possible (of course this tip should be followed whether you are on vacation or not.)

9. Avoid alcohol: Okay, so this isn't always easy. Just keep in mind that alcohol may act as an
asthma trigger (click here to learn more). At least try to limit your consumption.

10. Don't skimp on hotels: You may have to set your frugal tendencies aside here, because when it comes to a hotel room you must be picky. You don't want to end up in a cheap, run down musty room that once hosted a shaggy dog and a smoker. I've had that room and my lungs didn't like it.

Planning ahead is the best route here. Although sometimes we travelers drive until we are weary and tired of kids screaming in the backseat, sowe pull over at the nearest hotel. Don't be fooled by the discount hotel; you never know what you're going to get.

11. Don't forget your pillows: This is especially true if you have sensitivity to certain materials. Besides, it's nice to have one so you can rest comfortably when someone else is driving.

So there you have it. If you have any tips you would like to share, please feel free to add them in the comment section below.

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